Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheerfully Optimistic. . .yeah I'm one of those

"You know, it's rather nauseating to be around you sometimes. You are so cheerful and happy, it really makes me sick."

I was told that once a few years ago by someone I considered to be a pretty good friend.

"Really? I really make you sick?"

"Yeah. Sometime, I'd like to see you have a bad day and act miserable." My jaw literally dropped.

do have bad days."

"Sure. But they don't make you miserable or cranky."

I chuckled.
"Oh. Well, I only reserve my cranky moments for my husband to see."

"Yeah, I bet if I asked him he'd say you are never cranky," my friend answered sarcastically.

"Okay, tell you what. Next time things aren't going so well I'll give you a call and tell you all the bad stuff in the crankiest voice I can."

"Bet you can't do it."

You know what? She was right. I couldn't do it. I tried. But ended up laughing my head off instead. I could not make myself miserable. Now don't get me wrong. I have just as many bad days as the rest of them; days were nothing seems to go right. But I don't allow myself to wallow in self pity. I am hopelessly optimistic, no, cheerfully optimistic and apparently that drives some people nuts.

But it hasn't always been that way. Have you noticed? LIFE IS HARD! Life is hard but that doesn't mean we can't be happy. Here's the challenge. How can we cultivate an attitude of happiness? What if I was born cranky? What if I'm constantly bombarded with ill health? What if I'm stuck at home with squirming children who are conspiring against me to spill every gallon of milk in the fridge so that I have loads of smelly towels to launder and little time for me? The first step is to realize who you
truly are. You are a child of God.

It is difficult to make a man miserable
while he feels he is worthy of himself
and claims kindred to the great God who made him.

~Abraham Lincoln, 1862~

Don't you as a parent want your children to be happy? God is our heavenly Father. He created us, you and me, and wants us to be happy too, not later on, but NOW. We need to stop blaming others for our unhappiness and realize that happiness comes from within. We have a choice.

I have two choices. I can choose to be happy
or I can choose to be sad.
I choose to be happy. ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley~

And that's my secret - the motto I have for my life. I choose to be happy. It's a conscious choice I have to make every minute of every day. But it works. I see too many people who are constantly walking around moping under clouds of discouragement and gloom, who never look up and see the sunshine. Of course there are times when we are discouraged or full of sorrow, hours spent in anxiety and concern. But the Lord has told us to be happy.

"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear,
for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you" (D&C 68:6)
So will you consciously choose to be happy too? The next time someone asks "How are you?" reply, "Happy!" instead of the usual, "Oh, fine." Try to be the kind of person that lifts others spirits. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make life happier for someone else?" SMILE!

Thee lift me and I'll lift thee
and we'll both ascend together.
~John Greenleaf Whittier~

We can do it together.


Penless Thoughts said...

It's seeing the glass 1/2 full or 1/2 empty. I've found it's much better to see it 1/2 full and agree with you totally.

ellen b said...

Amen! Hebrews 1:9 "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has annointed You with the oil of gladness above your companions." in NIV "Oil of joy". This is speaking of our Savior so I say wear your joy, don't be shamed for it! As a dear friend of mine always says..."choose Joy!"

Anonymous said...

Choosing to be cheerful. What a great motto to live by. I tend to be optomistic but have been known to be terribly cranky, but I'm working on that as we speak. ;)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I am in tears right now. When I was in highschool I used to get comments like the one you had from your friend all the time. somewhere along the trials of adulthood I have lost that constant cheer. It is still there and i still feel constant joy, but I have also developed a talent for complaining (I say talent because I think i do it rather dramatically and drama is an art, right?). I Love love love that first quote by Lincoln and have printed it out for my fridge. Thank you for making me remember that feeling of constant joy.

Lei said...

oh how i love sis hinkley. happiness IS a choice!

Corrie said...

Great quotes! I think I will use "happy" instead of "fine" from now on.

It is something we have a choice about. You can even *fake it, till you make it* on this one. It is pretty hard to still feel miserable while you are smiling, being cheerful, or humming a happy tune.

crissybug said...

I love it. It is so have a choice in everything, and too often I think we choose to be unhappy. Thanks for the challenge, I will have to keep it in mind on my "hard" days.

Another quote by Abe Lincoln that I like is "If you think you can do are right. If you think you can' are also right."

It really is all just a state of mind!

Belladonna said...

Great words! YES - we each choose. The crazy part is discovering that it is possible to experience peace and joy even in the midst of HORRENDOUS tragedy. That does not mean dismissing the pain of loss or the hurt of injustice. But knowing that ALL things can work together for good just gives a different perspective.

The flip side, however, is learning to give ourselves permission to fully feel our pains and sorrow for a while without getting all punitive, recognizing is is NOT "failing" when we need to spend a bit of time in the shadows for a while. I am convinced it takes both light and dark to fully appreciate our lives.

The trick is finding that magical and oft elusive BALANCE.

Tigersue said...

I used to be a very, very optimistic person. I am sure PPD and other chemically caused depression helped in the decline. I am trying to get back to that. To make myself smile because life really is good, my head knows it when my heart doesn't feel it. I am trying to make others smile and feel joy everyday. That is my goal because I know if I can bring happiness to someone else, I can find that optimistic love of life I remember having years ago.

Gran - (Angela) said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us today. We do have choices to make ... thanks for the challenge. I will say as my response- Great and how are you doing today?:)
Have a wonderful evening!

Dee Light said...

what a great perspective!!! Thanks for sharing those uplifting quotes!!!

Pam said...

Wonderful! and boy can I relate. My mom and I were both told the same thing once by a deacon's wife! Kind of funny! Cuz she seemed to always be having a BAD DAY! God love her!

Dawn said...

What a great choice! My son pointed out to me the other day that I tend to look at the negative. I'm really trying to listen to myself and see if he's right!

randi said...

I agree that happiness and joy is a choice. If we just let life drag us along, it is too easy to be depressed. There is always something good to focus on if we take the time to look for it!

Calandria said...

and this choice to be happy totally comes through in your blog. it's one of the many ways you inspire me.

i've heard people suggest that those who "act" happy in the face of misfortune must be simpleminded. like it takes a lot of brains to complain about your lot in life.

Julie said...

Oh Montse, I need you around to talk to EVERY DAY!!!! Thanks for the wonderful shot of encouragement in this post. You are right!!

Stephanie said...

I always play the glad game from Pollyanna. It sure makes a difference in how I view things. I have even taught my kids how to play.

MommyK said...

I wasn't going to comment, but I've thought and thought and decided that I have to.

It's wonderful that you have such a sunny outlook on life and that you don't let a bad day get you down.

When I am feeling down, I try to find something to cheer me up. Going for a walk, listening to music, or looking at my kids' baby pictures always make me feel better.

But having struggled with depression, it's not as easy as choosing to be happy. If you could smile away the shadows, there would be no such thing as depression and no need for medications or psychiatry.

You can choose your *attitude* but you can't always choose to be happy. I play with my kids and do fun things with them and take them places because they deserve it and I love them more than anything. But sometimes I'd rather be lying in bed with a pillow over my head. I put my problems aside for their sake, but that doesn't mean they go away.

Depression is a real illness, just like cancer or diabetes or arthritis, but no one would ever tell someone afflicted with any of those diseases to think away the pain. I try my best to remain optimistic that some day I will feel better, but at my darkest and lowest moments, if someone had told me to choose to be happy, I'd probably have punched them square in the nose.

I'm not trying to be critical or mean, just pointing out that some people are not miserable for misery's sake, but because we are truly suffering.

Montserrat said...


Thank you for commenting! I was going to say something about depression when I wrote the post but decided against it.

You are right. It is a very real illness that has far reaching effects. Although I personally don't suffer from it, I have two very dear friends and several family members who suffer from depression. And from watching them, helping them, being with them, I have seen a difference in their attitudes. You still can choose to be happy. Several do wallow in self-pity, when they are not suffering from depression right at the moment they are still 'depressed' knowing that it will come back tomorrow or next week. Several choose to be happy and make the most of those days when they are feeling good, counting each day a blessing instead of counting down to the next big low. When they are not depressed they are happy because they choose to be.

You said, "You can choose your *attitude* but you can't always choose to be happy." I do have to disagree because I think happiness IS an attitude. And as with any attitude it needs to be cultivated. Choosing to be happy doesn't mean that all is rosy and peachy keen. The shadows don't go away just because we smile. It just makes dealing with those shadows a little easier.

I appreciate your comments. I know I don't fully understand how truly tormenting depression can be, just as I don't understand how painful a broken leg is or a c-section. But I try my hardest to understand so that I'm not judgmental when my friends and family members are really having a hard time.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I need to print out this post and these quotes and hang them in my my house! I love your insights! I need to show my smile more often. Maybe that should be a SHS goal sometime :) !!

And if you do suffer from depression, I still think you can find a happiness regimen that works for you.

MommyK said...

You don't have depression one day and be fine the next. You can have good days and bad days, but the depression is always there. You can choose to make the most of your day, you can choose to be optimistic, you can choose to not be grumpy, but you cannot just choose to not have depression, any more than you can choose to not have cancer. It just isn't that easy.

Years ago, I was grocery shopping after a hard day. My boss had been difficult, my clients had been difficult, the air conditioning in my car was broken, and I was stressed about some upcoming college bills. As I walked by the checkout looking for the shortest line, I saw a little girl in a cart with her mother. The reason I noticed her was because she had her finger up her nose. As I passed, I heard her say, "Mommy, that lady, she's mad!" When I looked, she was pointing at me. I thought that if a child that young could see my bad mood, I needed an attitude adjustment. THAT is an example of choosing to be happy. Sure, my boss was a pain, but I wasn't at work anymore, and sure I had some bills coming up, but at least I was in college.

But when you struggle everyday with just trying to get up and take a shower, being told that you need to choose happiness is patronizing at best. Unless you have been there, you can not understand it.

While constant complaining is tiresome, everyone has bad days, and it isn't healthy to bottle up your feelings. There is no shame is saying, "I had a bad day." I have been lucky to have a spouse and a few close friends I can lean on, that I can call and just have them listen.

My personal definition of happiness goes further than smiling and putting on a positive face. A good day and true happiness are miles apart. I can't remember the last time I was truly happy, and I would give anything to be able to enjoy life the way I used to. Trust me when I say that choosing to be that way is not an easy fix.

Brooke Shields' book "Down Came The Rain" is a good read for trying to understand how it is for women with PPD, and Florinn's post from the WTW topic on health issues hit it right on.

Now having said my piece, I won't be back to this topic because it has upset me beyond belief. What people who are suffering need is support, and all the uplifting quotes in the world cannot cure a true disease.

Montserrat said...


I am sorry. One thing I hate about the internet- blogging and e-mail - is you can't hear or see people face to face. So sometimes your words are taken differently than what you mean them to be. It's also hard when you don't know people's circumstances or what they've been through.

I do know that depression does not usually go away, although like cancer some are cured from it (my own BIL). My SIL, who is my best friend, suffers from depression. On her good days she says she is not suffering from depression. It was her words I was using. That is just the way she chooses to describe it.

You are right. I can't fully understand what it is like because I haven't personally *been* there. But that doesn't mean I don't care and can't try to understand as much as possible.

Thanks for the recommendation on Brooke Shield's book. My SIL and I were just making plans on what to do after she has her baby in August and the PPD begins, on TOP of everything else.

Christina said...

I love how you're cheerfully optimistic! I wish more people would adopt your mantra of "choosing to be happy".

Jen said...

I'm weeding my way through the WTW posts from last time, and this post & replies affected me as well...

I have had Dysthemia since I was a very young child, with massive depressive episodes on top of that, as well as severe post-partum anxiety.

Unfortunately what many people do not understand, is that depression is not a *feeling* like being happy or sad. You may say "I am feeling depressed..." but its inaccurate. Depression is not feeling sad or cranky or having a bad day or even string of days.

Often, when we are having a bad day what we do need is a good kick in the butt to get us out of our pity-pool and into enjoying life. But that has nothing whatever to do with depression.

What depression is, is more the inability to experience emotions, and in severe times the inability to feel the Spirit. I am a person for whom the Spirit speaks through feelings, and in light of that depression is even more terrifying and isolating.

I know of two specific examples in our very own stake of people who were *fatal* victims of depression simply based on that fact-they believed the spirit of God had left their lives, and therefore they felt they had no more reason left to live and ended it. This is tragic.

I have had numerous blessings specifically given to help me discern the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life, but it still requires a significant effort on my own part to be receptive to it--more effort than it takes to put on a smile or hum a happy tune.

I do think choosing your attitude is important, but like MommyK I feel there is a huge difference between attitude and emotion. Often attitudes do *influence* emotion, but for a depressed person, quite bluntly, choosing your attitude may be simply choosing to tell yourself the reasons to live vs the reasons not to.

Slapping a smile on your face so my children will grow up with a positive example doesn't erase the inner turmoil and self-doubt. But yes, I slap on the smiles, recite happy quotes and tell myself to be happy constantly-because I do feel my children need that example.

Positive self-talk and positive attitudes are an extremely important part of a cogntive-behavioral treatment for depression, which is one of the most effective treatments available. Even so, without a *combination* of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & medications that work on serotonin in the brain, the rate of overcoming depression is extremely low.

There is a physical, chemical component that is completely irrespective of choices you make about your life, blessings, attitudes, and/or smiling.

I have been extremely blessed to be in remission from my illness since February. There is not a day that goes by that I am not completely floored with the vivid spectrum of emotions-good & bad-that I am now able to feel, and not a day that I do not value those for what they are, and for the guidance I am able to receive b/c of them. Even so, while I would define myself as *happy* for the first & longest span of time since before I can remember, there is still an ever present fear that its not over and could crop back up at any time. Again, that fear is completely separate from both the attitudes and the emotions I am experiencing.

On April 27th of this year, I reached the 2 month mark of feeling great w/o daily depression & overcame my "life sentence" diagnosis of dysthemia. This was huge for me. I've made a lot of behavioral changes to keep it that way-I absolutely believe there is a behavioral & attitude impact on how we feel & in winning the fight to stay well. But I don't believe that that on its own can come close to being realistic for someone who is in the depths of the disease. Saccharine smiles and trite statements like "just snap out of it" or "choose to be happy" can be very hurtful to people who are suffering from a very real, chronic, and often fatal disease.

Good luck Montse on your quest for understanding depression and developing empathy for those who are suffering from it! There is so much stigma and misunderstanding out there because like MommyK said, its almost impossible to understand if you haven't been there. I hope that you are able to help & lift those around you who are dealing with the illness, because often we rely heavily on those around us for support & energy.

Thanks for taking the time to consider & explore these ideas, and sorry for writing a novella of my personal experience here in your comments forum. Again, good luck with your desires to help & lift others.