[This is just a draft, ATM. Needs more work, but I want to get it out there.]
Dear fellow activists, if you’re feeling down, ATM, things are getting on top of you, feelings of anxiety are coming to the fore, etc, here’s something that may help.
It’s so easy to put too much pressure on ourselves - we want to do more for the animals, but if we burn out in the process that doesn’t help them. It’s difficult, but we have to try and take a more detached view of things. What helps me to do this is a book I think very highly of, “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. I recommend you get hold of a copy as soon as you can.
It’s an explanation/description of scientific, peer-reviewed methods which are proven to increase one's happiness. Sonja was a student of Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology. He took the view that psychiatrists had only ever used psychology to treat ill patients - but what if we didn’t wait for people to become sick, but used psychology to create optimistic people who were resilient?
Sonja’s book explains that we all have a basic level of happiness that we’re born with: that’s 50%, which we can’t do anything to change; then, there’s a 10% component, which relates to our circumstances - it’s not easy to change that 10%. But that leaves 40% we can change, and she details 12 happiness increasing activities that have been proven to work.
My favourite method is ‘Savouring the moment’. So, I’m in the Cube, it’s already cold and there's a lazy wind blowing (one that goes straight through you instead of around you), my hands are freezing, and I need to blow my nose. But: I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with some wonderful people - I can see one of our group talking to someone, perhaps getting out a card - whatever. And I savour that moment, because I’m part of something so important, so worthwhile, that I wouldn’t want to swap places with anyone. And I feel sorry for those members who didn’t, or couldn’t, for whatever reason, make it to the Cube.
And I use it when things aren't going my way - I’m in a traffic jam, say, and I really don’t want to be late - but, I’m comfortable, I’ve got some decent music on - and I’ll get there, in the fullness of time. So, once again, I can savour that moment - and in this case, it prevents me from feelings of annoyance, etc, and I can physically feel happier. In situations like that, I often force myself to smile, even though I don’t feel like it - and that always improves things.
Savouring is just one technique: There are 11 more happiness increasing exercises in Sonja’s book; she recommends you choose the 3 or 4 that most appeal to you, and practice those.
I’ve been described, by Alan Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Happiness at Winchester University (yes, there is such a subject) as the happiest bloke he knows. I think there are several reasons for this: First and foremost, as an animal rights activist (ARA), I feel I'm doing something positive, in that I'm helping to increase the amount of wellbeing in the world. I've also become good friends with a huge number of ARAs - whom I call my 2nd family. To make such wonderful friends - from all over England - at my time of life, is just a complete joy. Another factor is that I actively work at increasing my happiness and well-being. I also have several forms of exercise I employ on a regular basis. I'm in good health, and, all in all, I have a lot to be grateful for.