photo: Orin Zebest on flickr

photo: Orin Zebest on flickr

A crappy life is, well, crappy.

Right?

One could say it’s hard to argue otherwise.

But then one wouldn’t be a hard-core Goofball nerd who is always looking to argue against crappy and for happy.

Which is what led Melissa and I to watch the movie Happy the other night.

Happy is just what it sounds like – a movie about what makes people happy.

A movie of this sort could have gone in a lot of different directions. There could have been drugs. There could have been dancing girls. There could have been dancing girls on drugs!

But instead, the makers of the movie decided to focus on actual, scientific data about what leads to happiness – or lack thereof.

Needless to say, my happiness quotient was met the minute I started watching this film.

Nerds! Data! It was a match made in happy heaven!!

photo: Open Knowledge Foundation on flickr

photo: Open Knowledge Foundation on flickr

There were lots of cool happiness statistics thrown about in Happy, and I definitely recommend watching it.

There was one particular piece of data I found especially intriguing.

It involves the power of adversity.

One of the factors that’s been studied is the happiness level of people who have had challenging life circumstances.

Conventional wisdom says that people who’ve had a lot of “bad” things happen to them are less happy than those who’ve had “easier” lives.

But that’s not the case.

Turns out, those who have had lots of challenges and “bad” things happen to them are more likely to be happy than those who haven’t.

photo: sari_dennise on flickr

photo: sari_dennise on flickr

Have you ever had someone say to you that the whole positive attitude thing doesn’t apply to them because their lives are so hard?!

(And maybe sometimes this person is you.)

According to the data, those with hard lives have a greater chance of being happy.

Now, this isn’t to say that the road from crappy to happy is traveled in an instant.

Indeed, getting to a good place often involves feeling a lot of crappy feelings. It means really being present to the pain of difficult circumstances.

But when I think about my life, and when I think about some of the more difficult challenges in my life – an eating disorder, being gay, divorce, gender identity conflicts – every single one of those things got me to a place where I couldn’t keep going on my own.

I had to surrender.

photo: Vox Efx on flickr

photo: Vox Efx on flickr

I had to ask for help – from other people, from the Divine.

And because of that help, I ended up in a way better place – a place I never would have ended up if I hadn’t had the crappy stuff happen to me.

If I hadn’t been challenged, I wouldn’t have surrendered. I’m way too attached to my human self and the illusion that I can control the world.

It’s one of my most cherished and viciously-guarded ideas. Even though I know it’s an illusion, I still cling to it every chance I get.

Difficult life experiences were the only thing that could blast apart that illusion.

And blast they did.

photo: Brett Neilson on flickr

photo: Brett Neilson on flickr

Now, there’s another cool thing about all this. Something they didn’t talk about in Happy, but something they’ll eventually get some hard data on, I’m sure.

When you know the benefits of adversity and something “difficult” happens to you, you can choose to embrace it.

Indeed, the label of “difficult” becomes this flexible, bendy thing that morphs and changes in front of your eyes.

You still get to have your feelings. You still get to cry and scream and mourn, when you need to.

And you also know that, on the other side, is a huge field of possibilities that never would have been yours without the “difficult” thing.

How frickin’ cool is that?

Talk about good news.

Talk about a seriously happy-inducing thought, backed up by hard-core scientific data!

Crap + Surrender = Happiness

I’ll take that over dancing girls on drugs any day!

photo: Steven Pisano on flickr

photo: Steven Pisano on flickr

How do you get from crappy to happy? Share your comments below!

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