Ok, so your 401k has taken a plunge like a polar bear on a shrinking ice sheet. Unemployment is skyrocketing while the sky is falling under our own gigantic carbon footprint. We’re all dog paddling in this environmental and economic sewer we’ve created.

I earnestly believe this economic meltdown is the best thing that could have happened to our planet and ourselves.

Sure, it’s scary as hell. And I feel badly for those who have been significantly impacted through loss of retirement savings, jobs, and self-esteem. But it’s a major wake up call.  We need to spend more time with each other and less time making fortunes. The economy is forcing us to consume less, while compelling us to be more industrious to live with what we have.

Organic gardening is booming. Automakers are finally being browbeaten into building cleaner-burning cars. Factories are spewing out less consumer crap and the pollution it creates. Neighbors are getting reacquainted in their neighborhoods. In a New York Times article on Sunday, “Nice” is  back in vogue. Have you been to a networking event lately? People are actually open to networking now.

What Happy People Know

what-happy-people-knowDan Baker, Ph.D. wrote “What Happy People Know: How the Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better.” The book explores our biologically hardwired brains that bombard us daily with survival instincts based on fear. The trick is to consciously deflect these fight or flight impulses we inherited from our cave cousins with rational optimism from our neocortex, or higher brain. It’s this higher level brain that separates us from all other mammals, and this is where we find our happiness.

“In the ultimate analysis, human beings have only two essential, primal feelings: fear and love. Fear impels us to survive, and love enables us to thrive. This complementary pair of feelings has been the driving force of human history.

Fear is the product of the reptilian brain, hardwired into every fiber of our being, and love is the product of the neocortical higher brain, where spirit and intellect reside. Thus, the dance of the spirit and reptile – the shifting balance between the neocortex and the reptilian brain – is the dance of love and fear.”

The book outlines the five “Happiness Traps”

  1. Trying to buy happiness
  2. Trying to find happiness through pleasure
  3. Trying to be happy by resolving the past
  4. Trying to be happy by overcoming weaknesses
  5. Trying to force happiness

The trick to being happy is to have and make empowered choices. If you’re sitting around thinking that you’ve been victimized by carbon-belching industries and greedy Wall Street nitwits, that you’re entitled to a better life and that someone is going to rescue you, or that everyone else is to blame, then you are surrendering your unique power and gifts to control your own life. You are surviving, not thriving.

It’s not all doom and gloom out there. It’s how you choose to deal with it. Are you a caveman or woman fleeing for survival? Or are you empowering yourself to make a difference in your life, which ultimately impacts the lives around you? Always has.

I found this book to be hugely inspirational, because it helped me better understand the biological inner-workings of my noggin that I can now better control. I can choose to substitute fight or flight with folly and freedom.

I hope you choose to read it, and when you do, please let me know how it impacted your life and happiness.