Being happy and focusing on suffering?

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    For a long time of my life, I was a person who, by various circumstances, came to view the negative side of things a bit too much. I was distrustful of people, but I feel I wasn’t fully ingrained into the problem as others are, as I eagerly lept at the chance to escape the problem when I saw there were methods to get out of it, and various experiences led me to see how it was my personal story, not how the world “really is”. Now having dedicated my life to Buddhist philosophy, I am looking to rewire my brain towards a happier lifestyle. After seeing “The Happiness Advantage” TED talk, I have incorporated 5 things into my daily life:

    1. Meditation

    2. Writing down 3 positive things

    3. Sending out a positive email to someone I know

    4. Journaling a positive experience

    5. Exercise

    I have found these things have greatly helped me in my lifestyle, and things are SO MUCH better now, to the point where I get giddy thinking of the future. I want to keep focusing on myself, as I have started to see the positive in life and the love others have for me and what I have for them. But I am finding some conflict in how I should approach things. Today, I woke up with a really clear mind. My day was going really well, and I hopped on the internet. I read up on the things going down in Russia involving gay people, and became very angry, reading about it for over an hour and a half (I have had a problem with getting too wrapped up in the internet). When it was time for my daily meditation, I found it VERY hard to keep my mind focused, and calm it down from it’s mile a minute speed. Afterwards, I realized that I need to confront this: I tend to get worked up in my head when I deal with negative situations, and my old self emerges, and those emotions start to spill out into the other areas of my life. On the flip side, I can’t just ignore bad things I hear about so I can avert this from happening. If I just avoid bad situations because I know I’ll get “worked up” then I’m letting the problem win. These are things I need to learn to approach differently, but how do you do so and still maintain your positive, happy self? I know that you shouldn’t be feeling 100% happy all the time, but I also know that I am taking my negative emotions way way farther than they need to go. My “worked up” self isn’t just something that I can just let be, it’s a very unhealthy habit that I want to learn how to fizzle down into more productive thinking. It has ruined my day and my self esteem before, and leads to me being unproductive and ruminative.

    My question is. how should I approach these things? I am focusing on self-improvement right now, but I want to be involved in the state of the world so I can help make a difference. But when you look these things up, you just see all the suffering and it bogs your mind down. I feel like there are 2 options: 1) I should try to fill my life with positive experiences for a while and not put as much energy into seeing the bad so my brain can relearn how to view the world and I can approach these things differently. Or 2) I am approaching these things wrong RIGHT NOW and need to change how I do so. I feel like I don’t want to “ignore” the problems like the first option seems to imply, but I was thinking that maybe I should for a while to focus on getting my own life on track, which I really need right now, but I either ignore them completely or let them get to me, and it’s hard to find the middle ground, as I feel not getting worked up over it is almost an injustice to the issue. But maybe there is a way I could do both? Confront suffering in a different way while not letting it bog you down? I think the issue is that when I read up on bad news or deal with bad things, I let it “get to me” too much (I’ve gotten better at it, but still, it’s like a spark that leads to a fire: it gets way too blown up in my head, to the point where my reaction becomes the problem, and the problem itself is secondary). In a weird way, this is exciting for me as it is showing progress: I used to NEVER be interested in the state of affairs, and just focus on my own problems. Funny how in doing so, I was never really putting myself first, in terms of self improvement.

    I noticed that the longer I spent on a negative thing, the more likely the negative spiral would kickstart, but I feel like “cutting down the time” I put into focusing on bad things isn’t a healthy way to approach it (since you can’t control that all the time), and I need to learn how to approach bad things in an altogether different way. How should I do so?

    Annie P


    Thank you for sharing your challenge! I believe most of us have struggle with the same thing.
    I think it’s a matter of recognizing the circumstances you have the ability to directly influence and focusing on making a POSITIVE contribution or impact on a negative situation when you are able…..instead of letting those unfortunate situations take you down with them.

    If you hear about something that disturbs you, find some way to help – it can be as simple as sending a prayer or a positive thought. Those small things do make a difference and it creates harmony within you rather than keeping you in a dark place.

    I hope that helps a little!

    Take care =)

    The Ruminant

    Hello Dan!

    I can’t say what you should do, and I’m certainly no expert on the Buddhist philosophy, but I can tell you my own approach. Mind you, I also still get upset about certain things, but it’s not that much.

    First of all, have you noticed that when reading about any news story and then reading the comments, the comments are mostly really aggressive and negative? It seems that this is a problem for a lot, if not most, people; we all get worked up about things and then only see the negative aspects and start to attack others in our despair, only making things worse, or at least not really making things any better. If I feel like I would get too involved in that, I simply choose to not read the comments from others. It’s only going to get me more upset. There’s this quote I’m going to have to paraphrase as I don’t remember it exactly, but it was about not getting sucked into other people’s drama, but to pull them into your peace. If a person is yelling, then why get involved, when you can just be quiet and wait for the situation to pass.

    You can’t change the world, only yourself, and in my opinion, we are all here to learn. That learning process unfortunately seems to mostly happen through suffering. That’s what I remind myself when I come across something that’s disturbing to me. I also see the people who do bad things as lost souls, who just don’t know any better. It’s the pain and fear that causes people to do bad things and create more pain and fear. I don’t want to add to that, so I try to respond with peace and calmness and love and compassion. If I get angry and aggressive, then I’m adding to the amount of fear in this world. “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

    Interestingly, I don’t seek happiness anymore. Happiness, just like sadness, is always going to be a passing moment. I seek balance and peace. Everything else comes and goes. I guess that helps as well when looking at the state of the world. I can’t hold onto the feeling of happiness, and if I try, that would ironically make me sad. So allowing things to be and happen is quite important as well.

    I see a lot of beauty in you and even in your predicament. You care. Caring is painful because of how this world works, but it is a beautiful sentiment. Cherish that and protect yourself by making choices that do not harm you.


    I learned to stop paying attention to the news. I find that the regular news outlets focus on the bad news. This does not enhance my life. I don’t see any use or reason to keep up what is going on in the world that only focuses on pain and suffering.

    I believe the best way I can help the world is to focus on myself. If I fulfill my life’s purpose then I will help the world.

    I totally agree with The Ruminant with the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is fleeting. Seeking meaning in our lives will bring me balance and peace.

    Good luck,

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