Sunday, January 5, 2014


It seems some people are just wired to be happy. On the other hand, some people seem wired to see the negative in every situation.

On New Year's morning, Connor was playing with a lego creation and it broke. Then something else that seemed somewhat trivial happened, and he was a mess. He sobbed that it was the worst day ever! And I really felt like he meant it. I pointed out many things that had already gone "right" for him that morning, but he was somewhat unconvinced. On more than one occasion, I have heard Connor exclaim "ugh, I wish I'd never been born" to express a simple thing like "I don't like dinner".  I thought it was funny at first, but now it just breaks my heart, so I asked him to please not tell me that.

Helen, on the other hand, just seems to float through life. Just a few days ago, it was extremely cold outside. She went out to play with a friend and came back in exclaiming "thank goodness I was so toasty warm out there". Part of that is her tendency to be a contrarian, but most of it is that she just can't be brought down most days. She dances, she sings, she wears a lot of pink! She looks for the beauty in the world and is fairly intentional about how her room should look, in order to be the prettiest possible.

Connor clearly takes after Ed and Helen favors me - although seeing Connor has made Ed comment "Am I really that negative?" so I'm guessing Ed doesn't FEEL as negative as Connor can sound. And really, he isn't. But the tendency is there.

All this leads me to be intrigued by the question of whether the tendency to be happy is innate, or if we have some control over it. I'm drawn to books like Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project", which I read a couple of years ago, and was excited when my online book club chose to read Rubin's follow-up "Happier at Home". In both books, Rubin poses simple experiments to try and make herself happier - even though she fully admits to being a happy person.

As is naturally the case with things like this - some suggestions ring true, and some ring hollow. But the book at least gave me room to pause, and think about my two children with very different dispositions and try and think about whether I could help Connor be happier. (Although in fairness, he is happier this year than I have ever seen him, so even his drub way sometimes is offset by a lot of smiles these days.)

The absolute best tip Rubin gives in Happier at Home is to sing in the morning, noting that it's very difficult to be unhappy when you are singing. It took me right back to my childhood, when my mom used to croon "Good morning, good morning! It's time to start the day. Good morning, good morning - to you!"

I sing to my kids all the time. And now, I tell them to sing back if they're feeling grumpy!


As part of the online book club "From Left to Write", I was given a copy of "Happier at Home". This post was inspired by that book.


  1. I can't carry a tune to save my life but my 5 month old apparently doesn't care or know any better and lights up whenever I sing to him, and it makes me feel happy too!

  2. I wonder if my sister is predisposed to be more negative, more exacting. I don't think she realizes how negative she sounds either but it can be exhausting to talk to her sometimes!