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If you’re happy and you know it

I read an article yesterday about researchers trying to determine how you can lead a happier life. Essentially they concluded that if you dwell on the positive things in your life and take pride in your particular strengths, you can be a happier person.

I know most of us are trying to lose weight to become happier or healthier. Companies that sell diet pills are essentially selling you on the idea of a happier life in a bottle. This article might explain why being thin or beautiful doesn’t necessarily make you happier if you can’t appreciate it. For instance, people in the modeling and acting professions constantly have to go to auditions where casting directors tell them what’s wrong with their bodies and their looks. All that negative feedback could make even the prettiest person start dwelling on their insecurities instead of all the good things about themselves. Every woman seems to have some odd complaint about her body, be it a bad complexion or an oddly placed mole or a sixth finger. (What? I’m sure Anne Boleyn must have bitched about her extra finger.) But if that’s all you concentrate on, you miss all the good things about yourself.

At my extended family gathering this weekend, my 10-year-old cousin talked to me for at least five minutes about how terrible his life was. Some of his complaints were valid – having to change schools because of bullying, divorced parents, siblings messing up his room while he got the blame. But the saddest part was hearing this woe-is-me attitude coming from someone so young. I wanted to tell him “Don’t be a victim!” and also “Dude, you’re 10. Life will get better,” but I didn’t really know how to express these ideas to him in a way he’d understand. There are plenty of kids his age in the foster care system who have it much worse, but again I didn’t think saying “Well, at least your parents aren’t heroin addicts who hit you with a Louisville Slugger and lock you in a broom closet” would be an appropriate retort. If I’d read this article sooner, I probably would have asked him to list at least three good things about his life.

A positive attitude helps, no matter what your situation or what your problems are. It won’t necessarily fix your problems, but it makes them more tolerable. I’m sure Anne Boleyn would have been a great piano player! It’s sad to see someone hating on themselves, be they fat or thin. Part of learning to love yourself and accept yourself is learning to see the positive things in your life. Maybe we’d all be happier that way, no matter what our body fat percentage.

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8 Comments

Vickie • November 28, 2006 at 12:14 pm

You might consider sending your cousin a special letter/note and a journal – perhaps a journal with room for drawing (if he is like other 10 year old boys that I have known that love to draw).

I think that you could talk to this 10 year old in nearly the same way you would talk to a friend – and share some of the things that have occurred to you since your chat with him. Things that you wished you said – write them.

If he lives close to you (or if not perhaps e-mail) this might be a kid that would like to see you more often – perhaps that is why he reached out to you (or perhaps he does this all the time? Woe is me – kind of kid?)

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PastaQueen • November 28, 2006 at 12:20 pm

This cousin talks to everybody. I think he cornered at least 3 or 4 other cousins during the day :)

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Smissy • November 28, 2006 at 12:52 pm

When my brother, sister and I were growing up my mother used to always tell us, “You’re as happy as you want to be!” We used to always roll our eyes at this statement, however the older I get the more I agree with it. Great post as usual PQ :)

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fair fat and forty • November 28, 2006 at 3:01 pm

I have found your website so inspiring . I have read it for the last couple of months. The pictures are great. I have just started a blog today, I am not technical at all dont know anything about linking blogs etc. I have just published my first entry,its a bit short but Ill add on later. I just feel its a start in me loosing weght and changing things I need to change in my life! I mentioned your blog but dont know how to make it a link. Anyway thanks so much.

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Whitney • November 28, 2006 at 9:47 pm

The world has changed. I am 25, and when I reflect on my childhood, I was so happy – not a care in the world!

For some reason, children seem to have more stress and pressure. They are expected to participate in numerous activities, maintain good grades, and then the media forces a certain body image down their throats.

When my nephew was 8 he would always say, “I’m ugly and stupid.” I could not believe it! And now he’s 12 and often says that he’s depressed and confused about life. It is all very sad. I don’t understand it.

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Laura • November 29, 2006 at 7:53 am

I think it is a different world we live in. I see it clearly in my own 17 yr old son. Perhaps because we are so media driven and the kids are exposed to it at such a young age no matter how we try to shelter them. When I was younger there were 3 channels on TV and we basically got most of our information from our parents and school. Now the kids are bombarded with very adult things at a young age. It’s too much for them to handle.

By the way, I also am relatively new to this site but LOVE it and have it on an RSS feed on my home page so that I can see when you add a new post. I have 100 lbs. to lose (how did THAT happen?) and am on a similar diet. You are a great inspiration, real and honest and insightful. You help us out here!

Thanks, Laura

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K • December 4, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I spent much of my teens in tears.

It wasn’t until I met my (now) husband – who has suffered from fairly serious depression since he was 12 – that I realised that in fact, I’m not doomed to be unhappy, that I’m luckier than many people, and that I can pull myself out of the holes I dig for myself.

I’m a great believer in counting blessings, but you can’t do it for other people, only yourself.

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Kat • September 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Did you know that having 6 fingers on one hand is a dominant trait and having only 5 is a recessive one?

It’s only cause the dominant trait is so rare that it doesn’t show up often and most cases involve people who are heterozygous for the trait, so therefore, they only have a 50% of passing on the trait to their kids. And those people, at any rate, have their “extra” digits chopped off at birth.

And a related question, if having 6 fingers is dominant, then can it really be classified at being an “extra” finger? Shouldn’t having 5 fingers be considered having too few?

Oh biology, my life has had never a dull moment since I found you…but it has certainly bored the hell out of my friends and family (and online bloggers like Pastaqueen).

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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