Finding Sunshine on A Cloudy Day

Now you’re all humming “My Girl” by The Temptations, aren’t you? That’s just fine… because it’s close enough to what I’m referring to. Today is a beautiful day here but it’s surrounded by lots of rainy days with ground well saturated with melted snow (some places still have several inches, if not feet, of snow that hasn’t yet). So you’ll understand why the idea of finding sunshine on a cloudy day is on my mind.

My Girl - The Temptations

Of course, in the song it’s all about the girl and hey, if that’s your answer – do your thing. 🙂 Read no further. You’re all set. But even for those in love, there are moments when you just need a little help finding the joy in life when it isn’t coming from outside of yourself.

I’m sure a lot of us have noticed how happy people get when the weather changes from overcast and cold to sunny and warm. Happy, friendly, and usually more optimistic. At least, this has been my experience almost everywhere I’ve been. The weather plays a large role in our mood and our outlook on the future. Recognizing this is one element of being able to turn the dial up on your own inner happiness, on your own, when the outside isn’t quite as uplifting.

And, of course, this concept of sunshine and clouds is also a metaphor for broader situations we can get ourselves into. Just the very idea of going to your job away from home, taking care of the kids, etc. can get a person down and out. Some days things are going great, other days something just isn’t connecting or you aren’t feeling appreciated. I’ve had plenty of all of it.

But it’s all the same – it all hinges on being able to recognize the impact that your external surroundings have on your own mood and outlook on life. If someone gives you a hard time, you have a choice to make. You can internalize that moment and feel bad about it and upset and angry about it. You can feel resentful toward that person for your changed mood and lost happiness. You can bemoan the unfairness of it all that you should be one chosen to be the target of this person’s ire (or whatever). And et cetera.

But where does any of that get you? Where has any of that every gotten any of us? Emotions are tied into a complex biochemical and psychological web of influences that are not easy to tease out. Emotions are a part of how you respond to the world. It isn’t really helpful to criticize yourself for your emotions. But it is useful to examine them and to examine your actions in response to them. How do you act based on your emotions?

Here’s an example. My friend Sanjay has just had a going over by his boss for forgetting to turn in a weekly report needed for his boss to be able to write his own report. Sanjay is getting the third degree and afterward he feels pretty bad. He goes to his friend and complains about the whole thing, complaining that his boss is a jerk and he doesn’t deserve to be spoken to in that manner. He complains that he doesn’t make enough money to put up with the nonsense (he probably uses more colorful language). Et cetera.

And I come along and ask Sanjay, in this fictional example, how he’s feeling at that moment. Most people would say something like: “I’m pissed off.” or “I feel like punching him.” or “I just feel like quitting.” Right? Any of this sounding even vaguely familiar? Even if you don’t work in an office – you can extrapolate this to other situations where you have had to knock heads with someone who is a position of power over you (student-professor, other employee-boss, child-parent, adult “child”-parent…)

But you see what I mean about identifying emotions really as the subsequent _actions_. Our fictional dude is probably _feeling_ angry and devalued, and who knows what else based on his own past history – he could be feeling depressed, sad, lonely, unloved, resigned, anxious, fearful, terrified, hopeless et cetera.

My point being – if he could instead focus on the emotions, rather than the actions, then he could see that his response (being upset with the boss’ actions) isn’t really useful _for him_. It only exacerbates what is upsetting him so much.

And so instead of allowing this moment with his boss to turn his day upside down – he could instead chose to use it as an opportunity for self-improvement, for change. He could instead brush it off and find ways of seizing the rest of the day in productive ways – ways that would be positive. He could instead relate in positive ways with those people he knows _do_ appreciate the work he does, rather than in negative ways through a rehashing of the upsetting moment. He could instead find the sunshine in the potential cloudy day.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna and suggest that anytime something bad happens or someone does something wrong to you, you should just put on a happy face and brush it off and that’s that. Or even that this is always possible. But the act of trying, of knowing that it is _possible_ will allow you to find those happy moments more often than not. And happy moments usually feed off of each other. Remember how I reminded you that people tend to be happier when the sun is out? Same thing happens when people are around others who are happy. Granted there are some who react negatively to bubbly people, ok… but in general people react positively to happiness around them. Hence, happiness can be a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Your positive attitude can chase someone else’s clouds away.


Photo credit: hotblack from morguefile.com

Hopefully all this happiness and sunny metaphors hasn’t had you rolling your eyes too much!  Then again, eye exercises are good to relieve the eye strain that might come from reading long posts like this one…  😀

Comments welcome. Stay tuned for a post that will seem like a counter-argument to this but isn’t really. Basically a post on the meaning of happiness, how it manifests and how Western society places value on certain kinds of happiness which may or may not be happiness at all (depending on your own perspective). Not sure when I’ll post that – I have to be in the right mood for it. 😉

Post shout out to @_anawhite because I am in love with her DIY furniture plans.

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One thought on “Finding Sunshine on A Cloudy Day

  1. It’s amazing all the research and publication of new books on Happiness! I often find the results illuminating but I recall that much of the wisdom on happiness is very old, for example, from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus who taught that we are much more in control of our reactions to events and circumstances than to the circumstances themselves. Your reflection on reactions to a cloudy day and stormy people around us (!) reminded me of this wisdom and beautifully illustrates how it isn’t really out of reach to put that into practice and make our days just a little bit brighter. Thnaks!

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