How To Be Happy Lesson #20: Get Small

Humans are famous for not paying close attention to what goes on around them. Part of the reason for this is likely the fear of a deadly spontaneous implosion brought on by excessive sensory overload (I’m probably only speaking for myself here). The other is a certain kind of snoberance [arrogoant snobbery]. If something is “little,” after all, it doesn’t deserve our notice or attention, right?

Wrong. Here’s an explanation from Cracked.com:

Life can be a total drag, there’s no denying that. Every day is loaded with little pitfalls — stepping in dog s**t, getting yelled at, farting in your car during a traffic jam and it’s hot out and your windows don’t work — that can fill you with unrelenting rage. But then there are those little moments between all that garbage that make you so unquestionably joyful, you forget about the poo on your shoe. Let’s take a minute to honor those moments.

Cracked describes such moments as “dumb things that make you happier than they should.” Their list begins with “Having a public bathroom all to yourself” and ends with “receiving a package you forgot you ordered.” In between are “belching in an empty parking garage” and “finding an unpopped sheet of bubble wrap.”

Cyber-Breeze ups the ante on Cracked with “50 Little Weird Things That Make Us Happier.” Number 50 on this list is “the Royal Family” (the UK naturally). Things indeed get a little weird after that as you see “Cleaning the Bathroom” and “Cleaning the Wax from Your Ears” scroll by. Number 1 is “Sleeping in a Freshly Made Bed.” My favorite on this list, though, is Number 29: “Remembering the name of something/someone you thought you’d forgotten,” although I would change it to “Remembering Anything That Happened More than Five Minutes Ago.”

And the lists go on and on. Buffer offers “10 Weird Ways to Be Happy, Backed by Science.” Prevention throws out “6 Weird Things That Make You Happy.” Seventeen enters the happiness fray with “20 Silly Little Things That Make You Ridiculously Happy,” including “when you find a folded chip (AKA, a wish chip) in your bag of chips.” Okaaaaayyy. Mashable offers another 50 things like “a box of corgi puppies” and “finding that missing sock.”

All these examples make Lesson #20 seem obvious. Why spend time searching for the exigestaltial [existential gestalt-like] Shangri-La of happiness when its mini-incarnations are all around us. Here are two little things making me happy right this instant:

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Viking Duck and Rubberlina, together forever. Are you smiling yet? Are you?

(P.S. And you thought my title was about that other thing, didn’t you? That makes me grin, too.)

Weekly Ratspression™: Monumentspertise

Today’s “word” from RatBlurt’s Ridictionary™: For When “Normal” Words Fail You.

monumentspertise noun \`mon you meant spur tease

  1. Having a ridiculous amount of knowledge regarding natural features (as a mountain or canyon) or areas of special historic or scientific interest (as a battle site or fossil remains) that are set aside by local or national governments as public property.

Etymology: monument + expertise

To view the entire blog where this word first appeared, see “Name That Monument?” (July 11, 2013).

Example: “My monumentspertise astonished me somewhat.”

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While the format of these “words” for the day mimics that of dictionaries, unless you have been reading my blog RatBlurt™, you won’t find these terms anywhere—at least not yet. It is my fervent and extremely ridiculous hope that these terms will one day grace the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. So, if the source of these fictords [fictitious words] is a dictionary, which it is not, it would be a ridiculous dictionary, hence the made-up name “Ridictionary™” [ridiculous dictionary].

How to Be Happy Lesson #19: Consider Unicorns

See how this strikes you. A disgraced police detective, Nick, lives as a social outcast, filling his days with heavy drinking and substance abuse, moonlighting as a hitman to feed his various habits. After sustaining a massive heart attack, Nick comes into contact with a small, blue, winged unicorn named Happy, which apparently only he can see. Happy explains he is the imaginary friend of a little girl named Halley, who has been kidnapped by a deranged man dressed as Santa Claus (“Very Bad Santa”). Happy reveals that Halley is Nick’s estranged daughter and is seeking Nick’s aid, believing him to be the hero cop that Halley envisioned him to be. Though skeptical at first, Nick reluctantly agrees and the two work to save the girl.

The show, as you might not have guessed, is called Happy! and is available on Netflix. It begins very unhappily with Nick imagining himself blowing his own head off and then somehow dancing with the seemingly revivified Solid Gold Dancers as blood and gore streams from the top of his skull. Things go downhill from there.

While watching the first episode of Happy! did nothing to make me so, it did get me to wondering about unicorns. In today’s vernacular, a unicorn is either “that perfect girl you can’t ever catch” or a single female swinger interested in meeting other couples (or both I suppose). In ancient terms, though, it is the mythical horse (or sometimes a goat-like animal) with the big horn sticking out of its forehead (as shown below). The concept of this magical beast has been around since the Bronze Age and the Ancient Greeks but how it came into being is murky.

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That said, here are some fun “facts” regarding these one-horned animals courtesy of Mental Floss:

  • People thought they had found a 15,000 BCE drawing of a unicorn in the Lascaux Caves until they figured out it was just an animal with two horns drawn close together.
  • The first writing about a unicorn (5th century BCE) described it as having “a white body, purple head, blue eyes, and a multicolored horn–red at the tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. (Later, the Roman Pliny would morph this into “the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead.”)
  • Marco Polo thought he stumbled across unicorns and called them “very ugly brutes to look at.” Chances are he was staring at rhinoceroses at the time.
  • Ghenghis Khan supposedly decided not to invade India after meeting a unicorn that bowed to him.
  • It was during the Dark Ages that the idea of virgins having great power over unicorns first cropped up.
  • The King James Old Testament mentions unicorns nine times due to someone mistranslating a Hebrew word for wild ox.
  • From the 1500s through the 1700s, “authentic” unicorn horn was worth more than gold. It usually could be found in pharmacies in powdered form.
  • Unicorns are very popular in heraldry, especially that of King James III of Scotland in the 1400s. Indeed, two gold coins of that time were named the unicorn and the half-unicorn.
  • If you find yourself with a sudden desire to hunt unicorns, you can obtain a permit for this from Lake Superior State University in Michigan. Hunters are advised to carry a flask of cognac and a pair of pinking shears.

I’ll end my unicornitribe [overly prolonged discourse on the horned horse] on this note. In his article “Fantastically Wrong: The Weird, Kinda Perverted History of the Unicorn,” author Matt Simon reveals that, in 2012, North Korean archeologists (who knew they had them?) found “the lair of one of the unicorns ridden by the ancient Korean King Tongmyong.” What tipped them off, Simon writes, “was, no joke, the words ‘Unicorn Lair’ written right in front of the damn thing.”

Today, the ancient horned unicorn has become mostly kidified. Simon describes it as a “magical, gentle creature, running around on rainbows and inspiring millions with regular appearances in My Little Pony and the occasional acid trip and in North Korea.”

So, here, finally, is lesson #19 in how to be happy, which is more of an instruction than a lesson. Whenever your emotional shade has turned the color of a certain imaginary winged single-horned creature struggling to stay upbeat in a “world of casual murder, soulless sex, and betrayal,” just read this blog over and over until you feel better. If this example of the utter ridiculousness made possible by human febrilcranial activity [also known as feverlirium] doesn’t make you smile, well…just hang in there. Lesson #20 is only days away.

Weekly Ratspression™: Montgolfiering

Today’s “word” from RatBlurt’s Ridictionary™: For When “Normal” Words Fail You.

montgolfiering verb \mont `gull fear ring

  1. To traipse about aimlessly via hot-air balloon.

Etymology: Montgolfier + -ing

To view the entire blog where this word first appeared, see “Balloons on the Moon” (May 22, 2012).

Example: “What’s a little freaky is that, contrary to what you might think, the “balloons” in the title refer not to lunar montgolfiering but to the text bubbles in the comic strips.”

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While the format of these “words” for the day mimics that of dictionaries, unless you have been reading my blog RatBlurt™, you won’t find these terms anywhere—at least not yet. It is my fervent and extremely ridiculous hope that these terms will one day grace the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. So, if the source of these fictords [fictitious words] is a dictionary, which it is not, it would be a ridiculous dictionary, hence the made-up name “Ridictionary™” [ridiculous dictionary].

How to Be Happy Lesson #18: Get Daffy

April being National Poetry Month, I hereby offer William Wordsworth’s 1807 poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” as Lesson #18:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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Weekly Ratspression™: Monotonized

Today’s “word” from RatBlurt’s Ridictionary™: For When “Normal” Words Fail You.

monotonized adjective \mow `not tih nighzd

  1. Deprived of sensitivity, vitality, or energy by overexposure to a lack of the variety that produces interest and stimulation.

Etymology: monotony + -ized [to have caused to be or become]

To view the entire blog where this word first appeared, see “Imagination (or Lack Thereof)” (April 5, 2012).

Example: “Think of all those great ideas that will be coming out of what people think about while being monotonized by this film.”

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While the format of these “words” for the day mimics that of dictionaries, unless you have been reading my blog RatBlurt™, you won’t find these terms anywhere—at least not yet. It is my fervent and extremely ridiculous hope that these terms will one day grace the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. So, if the source of these fictords [fictitious words] is a dictionary, which it is not, it would be a ridiculous dictionary, hence the made-up name “Ridictionary™” [ridiculous dictionary].

[Image: Olin Levi Warner, Imagination (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.}

Weekly Ratspression™: Mentuity

Today’s “word” from RatBlurt’s Ridictionary™: For When “Normal” Words Fail You.

mentuity noun \men `two ih tee

  1. relative intellectual acuteness or perceptiveness.

Etymology: mental + acuity

To view the entire blog where this word first appeared, see “Syzygy” (April 14, 2013).

Example: “If my purpose in writing this entry was to highlight the woeful state of my mentuity, I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

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While the format of these “words” for the day mimics that of dictionaries, unless you have been reading my blog RatBlurt™, you won’t find these terms anywhere—at least not yet. It is my fervent and extremely ridiculous hope that these terms will one day grace the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. So, if the source of these fictords [fictitious words] is a dictionary, which it is not, it would be a ridiculous dictionary, hence the made-up name “Ridictionary™” [ridiculous dictionary].

How to Be Happy Lesson #17: Get Thee to a Shrinkery

“And happiness – if such a thing is even achievable – is a much murkier matter.” This rather “disenhappying” statement falls in the middle of Oliver Burkeman’s 2016 article in The Guardian titled “Therapy wars: The Revenge of Freud.” Burkeman relates the story of how Freudian psychoanalysis has been much debunked since its salad days in the late 1890s through the 1940s. To visit a psychoanalyst in these “modern” times, as Burkeman did, is to “plunge immediately into the arcane Freudian language of ‘resistance’ and ‘neurosis,’ ‘transference’ and countertransference.'” The doctor Burkeman went to see views himself as “an excavator of the catacombs of the unconscious: of the sexual drives that lurk beneath awareness; the hatred we feel for those we claim to love; and the other distasteful truths about ourselves we don’t know, and often don’t wish to know.” Yikes! What’s that old saw about leaving well enough alone?

Many have taken a dim view of psychoanalysis as a path to well-being and happiness since its inception. One critic Burkeman cites had this to say about Freud and his ideas: “Arguably no other notable figure in history was so fantastically wrong about nearly every important thing he had to say.” Freudian analysis became de rigeur to say the least, he tells us, and of all the therapies that arose to compete to be the psychopenultanine [top dog in psychology], cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) won out. Rather than diving into what you think about your mother or the level of your dickealosy [penis envy], CBT focuses on “adjusting the unhelpful thought patterns that cause negative emotions.”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just dial in the correct emotional settings and you’re good to go. But, as Burkeman reports, some psychoanalysts think CBT is a cheap and bogus path to happiness:

At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature – about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind.”

CBT doesn’t exactly claim that happiness is easy, but it does imply that it’s relatively simple: your distress is caused by your irrational beliefs, and it’s within your power to seize hold of those beliefs and change them.

Psychoanalysts contend that things are much more complicated.

This is the point where the “happiness is murkier” line comes in. Some recent studies have shown that CBT may not be as effective as previously thought, that it may be more of a placebo than a cure for mental anguish, and some say the CBT may even make things worse.

Toward the end of his article, Burkeman offers this admission:

Perhaps the only undeniable truth to emerge from disputes among therapists is that we still don’t have much of a clue how minds work. When it comes to easing mental suffering, “it’s like we’ve got a hammer, a saw, a nail-gun and a loo brush, and this box that doesn’t always work properly, so we just keep hitting the box with each of these tools to see what works,” said Jules Evans, policy director for the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London.

The legacy of Freud, Burkeman writes, is “a reminder that we shouldn’t necessarily expect life to be all that happy, nor to assume we can ever really know what’s going on inside – indeed, that we’re often deeply emotionally invested in preserving our ignorance of unsettling truths.”

Lucy

Well, shoot. I can’t end this lesson on how to be happy on that note. There is one renowned psychoanalyst that Burkeman omits from his discussion: Lucy van Pelt. Lucy offers sage, very reasonably priced advice to her clients, e.g., “Go home and eat a jellybread sandwich folded over.” So, in her incisive, succinct words, lesson #17 in how to be happy is simply this: “Snap out of it!”

Weekly Ratspression™: Mentalosis

Today’s “word” from RatBlurt’s Ridictionary™: For When “Normal” Words Fail You.

mentalosis noun \men tah `low sis

  1. A condition of having fetid mental activity.

Etymology: mental + halitosis

To view the entire blog where this word first appeared, see “Wanted: A Breath Mint for Dimwittery” (July 29, 2013).

Example: “Maybe when you swallow it, it will work its way to the brain cells and cure chronic mentalosis.”

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While the format of these “words” for the day mimics that of dictionaries, unless you have been reading my blog RatBlurt™, you won’t find these terms anywhere—at least not yet. It is my fervent and extremely ridiculous hope that these terms will one day grace the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. So, if the source of these fictords [fictitious words] is a dictionary, which it is not, it would be a ridiculous dictionary, hence the made-up name “Ridictionary™” [ridiculous dictionary].

How to Be Happy Lesson #16: Happy Feet

One of the early advocates of happiness listed on the Pursuit of Happiness website is Mencius, a Chinese philosopher who lived two hundred years after Confucius and who has been ranked second behind his predecessor on the “sage scale.” The POH authors describe Mencius as the “pioneer of Positive Psychology.” They also attribute this quote to him.

When they (the sprouts of virtue) are rejoiced in, they will grow. Once they begin growing, how can they be stopped? As they cannot be stopped, unconsciously one’s feet begin to dance and one’s hands begin to move.

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Let’s dance!

Mencius believed that humans are endowed from birth with innate “sprouts” of humanity and righteousness and that cultivating those sprouts is what turns us into virtuous people, which in turn makes us feel so good that we involuntarily break into the happy dance. As I read this, I started wondering whether the opposite were true, that is, if I got up in the morning and started the day by putting on the soundtrack from Happy Feet and dancing, would that feeling flow upward, nourish my sprouts of humanity and righteousness, and make me virtuous in the “try not to be a dick” sense?

I don’t know. Dancing may not do all of that but get this: “Science confirms: Dancing makes you happy.” In this article, Psychology Spot author Jennifer Delgado tells us that “recent studies revealed that one of the keys to happiness and satisfaction is right on the dance floor.” Jennifer cites one study that “found that often those who were dancing not only reported feeling happier, but also more satisfied with their lives, especially in relationships, health, and the goals achieved over the years.” She also notes that even just moving to a rhythmic beat improves our mood and that dancing can promote “fewer negative thoughts, better concentration and a greater sense of peace and tranquility.” In addition, it can help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress.

So, what’s not to like about dancing? But how does it work its magic upon us? One, the miracle of chemistry. More specifically,

When we dance our brain releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that create a feeling of comfort, relaxation, fun and power. Music and dance do not only activate the sensory and motor circuits of our brain, but also the pleasure centers.

Two, dancing is a social activity that gets us out and about and engaging with others in a way that has a positive effect on our mental health.

Three, when we move to the beat “our muscles relax to the music.” This releases tension from even the deepest parts of our musculature.

So, lesson #16 in how to be happy seems obvious; put on your dancing shoes. Added happiness points if said footwear is wacky in and of itself, say, slippers of the heated narwhal, yeti, or Freudian variety.