While few people would ever accuse me of being an optimistic person by nature, I’m not exactly the gloomiest person either, given as I am to finding a grim and sardonic and dry sort of humor about this life I have lived. I thought it would be worthwhile to examine the ways in which I keep my spirits up and in which I have sought to overcome some of my own natural barriers to happiness and preserve a relatively even-keeled emotional state. I hope that others do not mind me sharing these matters, or feel uncomfortable at all reading about my own emotional life, as unremarkable as it is.
One of the ways I have best sought to keep my emotional life relatively stable is to enjoy finding humor in life. What you can safely laugh at is something that will not sap your reserves or your well-being. Depending on what kind of life one has lived, there is a lot that can be funny. Often, one can gauge the sort of life someone has lived by the sorts of jokes that they make. The comedienne Sarah Silverman once made a joke in The Aristocrats where she made it seem as if it was her family, and any time one can make a joke about incest, there is probably a pretty difficult personal background to be found. Likewise, a taste for banal jokes suggests a rather dull life. What we laugh about tells a lot about ourselves.
Another way to keep one’s spirits up is keep up good relationships with other people. If you can enjoy good times with others, giving and receiving encouragement, it is a lot easier to keep an even keel. Obviously having others around helps out with humor, since there are shared experiences that can become inside jokes, shared sarcastic references that can be made about unpleasant situations, and pleasant company to enjoy staying in or going out with. Likewise, other people provide a perspective that may help with balance, and they can fill in missing information that we do not know or notice and that helps to balance out our own perspectives and allow us to avoid focusing too much on ourselves.
Another way to see keep one’s spirits high is to find meaning in every experience. So much of our suffering results from believing things to be pointless and meaningless, and finding meaning makes anything easier to endure, because there is a purpose and reason for it all. Having a reason to endure makes it easier to put up with the absurd and difficult nature of life, and allows us to be more philosophical and less histrionic about the experiences that we have to deal with. And anything that makes us more calm and reflective and less focused on ourselves would probably help us to better overcome life’s difficulties, by putting them in a larger perspective.
And in a way, there are similarities between all of the ways that I seek to keep my emotional life stable. Humor, friendships, and purpose all seek to provide a bit of distance between ourselves and our problems, provide us with alternative perspectives that minimize our suffering and place it in context, and what broadens our perspective lessens our suffering, even as it makes us more sensitive to the well-being of others and more just and fair in our own dealings. And that is a good thing, one that we should all try to keep in mind for ourselves.