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The Happiness Connection  

Negative emotions help

Welcome to the hot, smoky days of summer.

Although we should be getting used to life plagued by forest fires by now, every time it happens, I am disappointed.

I’m disappointed until I think about how this is affecting other people so much more than me.

As much as I don’t like the air quality, I’m grateful my neighbourhood is dealing with smoke and not flames. Things could be so much worse.

You may be one of the 14,000 plus people who have it worse, and have been evacuated from your home, or on alert. My heart goes out to every one of you.

This situation brings me to an interesting question. How can anyone who is caught up in the fires, be happy?

Horrible things happen to both happy and unhappy people. It isn’t the circumstances that dictate your happiness, it is how you deal with them.

When you think about happy people in terrible circumstances, you might picture them smiling as they grab their families and head for their vehicles. Happy people are not always smiling, nor are they always feeling positive.

The initial reaction for anybody who finds themselves threatened by the flames is likely to be similar, regardless of how positive their mindset is. The fight, or flight response will kick in. This is the unconscious reaction to danger.

‘What is the best way to survive? Should I fight the danger, or run away from it?’

This fight or flight response arrives, accompanied by negative emotions like worry, anger, and urgency. This is your brain’s way of taking care of you.

It doesn’t matter how happy a person you are, these negative emotions are necessary to get you moving. Without this sense of urgency, you are likely to move at a slower, more relaxed pace.

This isn’t in your best interest when it comes to survival.

It isn’t until you reach a place of safety and your negative emotions subside, that it becomes evident what type of emotional mindset you have.

Are you robustly happy, fragilely happy, or unhappy?

Unhappy people stay stuck in their negative feelings.

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • I will never be able to replace my things.
  • Life sucks!’

This isn’t a great place to be. When negative beliefs surround you, you are intent on surviving, but you can’t thrive.

If you are a pessimist and used to negativity, this place may feel comfortable, but that doesn’t make it good. Unhappy people are content to settle for this as it is what they know.

Fragilely happy people, find it extremely difficult to return to their pre-disaster level of positivity. They know how it feels to thrive, but they aren’t sure how to regain that level of happiness.

This happens when you are a natural optimist, and blessed with predominantly positive circumstances. You haven’t consciously made the decision to be happy, or collected strategies to boost your emotions, so you don’t like where you are, but aren’t sure how to get to a better place.

Robustly happy people, have chosen to be happy. They know what makes them happy, and actively make decisions, and choose strategies that allow them to recover their happiness, even when bad things happen in their life.

They are a little like plants that get flattened by the wind, but spring back up the minute the wind stops. Horrible things will bend them, but they won’t break them.

This is the mindset that will serve you best as you go through life.

If you have experienced an extremely challenging circumstance, here are some robust happiness ways to deal with it.

  • Allow yourself time to experience your emotions; lean into them. I’m not suggesting that you should wallow in self-pity for weeks on end, just give yourself some quiet time to accept and adjust to how you feel.
  • Share how you are feeling with someone else. A trouble shared really is a trouble halved. You will be amazed at how much lighter you feel once you’ve expressed your thoughts aloud.
  • Trust that you live in a good world, and that something positive will come out of this experience. The growth mindset is always looking for the lesson. It gives meaning to those difficult times. If you can’t think of a reason immediately, believe that it will reveal itself when the time is right; that may not be for weeks, months, or even years.
  • Be grateful for what you still have. Gratitude is scientifically proven to make us feel happier. This is the ‘It could be worse’ philosophy that happy people use frequently.
  • Take time to reflect, but let go of the emotions. Step out of the situation, and see it as an outsider would. This gives you the opportunity to see things from a different, happier perspective.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is the super power of robustly happy people. Your entire family may have been displaced, but you can’t spend all your time trying to help them adjust, unless you also take time to help yourself.

The length of time it takes to shift from negative to positive will vary, but the robustly happy person will make this transition sooner than others.

They know it doesn’t serve them to stay in a dark place, so they consciously decide to step into the light.

A robustly happy person doesn’t feel happy when horrible things happen, but they know happiness is a choice and they are prepared to do what it takes, to move on. 



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an educator, speaker and author who specializes in positive psychology and success. She has been teaching children and adults for over three decades and is a passionate lifelong learner. 

Currently, Reen is helping schools create cultures that foster mental well-being, growth mindsets and robust happiness. She encourages teachers and parents to model this behaviour for their students and children. This is also a good strategy for business and community leaders.

Reen offers presentations and workshops that are a blend of research-based expertise, storytelling, humour and practical strategies.

Reen is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her website at www.ReenRose.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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