Monday, 4 June 2012

It's the good kind of contagious

The sun is shining today. I have been trying to become a little more positive in my outlook, and the sun is a good start. I am trying to distance myself from memories of hurts and mistakes, and hold on to the compliments and happy times. The negative always seems to stand out. One nasty comment can negate a thousand pleasant remarks. I am making an effort to let go of the unpleasant stuff, remind myself that I earned the compliments and kudos as much as the criticisms and reprimands.

I have depression. It is with me all the time, even with medication, the dark cloud in the clear sky. A storm is always looming. I am inclined to self harm and emotional meltdowns. I can't stop the cycle every time. I get into states of suicidal despair. I do my best to fight through, and I have good people around me to help me. I am fortunate in that. I have had people tell me that they can't believe I am depressed, because I seem pretty cheerful. Most of the time I can say that I am cheerful. I work at it. But it is a conscious effort, and I fight with my emotions every day. A single negative comment can send me into a black pit. A bad decision, a minor accident, a clumsy moment, and I can spiral down into misery far too easily.

I have thought a great deal about the why and the how of my thoughts, read a great deal about how to change thought processes, work through emotional overload, how to be less self deprecating, less self destructive, less self critical. This is where I have come to my current philosophy of how to treat others, and how I want to be treated.

I have a strong belief that people are generally good. When I am upset with someone I give them the benefit of a doubt, because everyone has bad days, bad moments, bad decisions, or ignorant reactions. I am not expecting perfection from anyone (except maybe my hubby, and then only when I am feeling especially cranky). I think, though, that the world would be a better place, if people put a bit more effort into their interactions with all other humans.

I like people. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. I really do like most people. I stuck that qualifier in this time, because I am not a sweet, optimistic, rose coloured glasses type person, and I do admit that there are people I find unpleasant to be around, people whose behaviour I disagree with, whose motivations disturb me greatly. They are the minority, however, and I try not to let them get to me.

It is a cliche to say that everyone has a story that you don't know. They do. I think most of us have got that, but we forget too often that other people have those stories, have those reasons for being less than pleasant. We get wrapped up in our own stories, our own drama, and wonder why people are not being nicer to US. It doesn't always register that give and take is the trick, that you have to care about other people's stories and you will get more sympathy for your own.

So start with being polite. No matter how unpleasant or rude other people are, it really doesn't cost you anything to say the words please, thank you, excuse me, I am sorry, you're welcome. It costs you nothing to hold the door for people, give a wave when someone lets you in in traffic, apologize for bumping into someone or getting in the way, even if it wasn't deliberate. The real trick is to mean it. If you can genuinely express manners and mean it, you win. Even if you don't like what you are given, if it is given with good intention, you can say "thank you" with sincerity. If you can't be sincere, try to fake it well. Nothing disarms a rude, cranky person like someone who responds with manners. That is what being civilized is all about. If you don't think you have to be polite, then you are not a civil person.

Next, be kind. Yeah, most people seem to think you can stop at polite, but that is the bare minimum standard, not the best you can do. Be kind because you need other people to be kind to you, because it makes others think about what they are doing, because you acknowledge their story, and maybe someone will acknowledge yours. If the service person isn't smiling, and you smile at them and offer a "rough day?", they may or may not respond, but maybe they will hold on to that little act of kindness, and just maybe they will find their own smile for the next person having a rough day. Spread the kindness, and it will multiply. Not everyone will pick it up, but it pays you back. It makes the world better, ups the positive energy content, and it feels pretty good, too.

The gold standard from my point of view is to be joyful. That sounds kind of funny and new age-y but it is absolutely the best way to make the world better. Look at our kids. When they are joyful, smiling, genuinely happy, we are happier and feel better. When we do the same, we can spread the joy, and increase the happiness for everyone we come into contact with, and they will be able to do the same.

That is the biggest part of all this, the reciprocal nature of  treating others well. Not everyone will respond positively, but those that do will help make even more people feel better. It spreads. A joyful contagion. Not an original concept, but one that bears repeating, especially when we are having trouble finding our own joy. A kind word from a stranger, a smile to remind us that we can, too, and can make the bleakness that seeps into our lives a little less. This comes down to being all of these things to ourselves, too. I seem to forget sometimes that I need to be polite, kind and joyful to myself, in order to have a supply to start the process with other people. Again, it's a cycle. The more people I use this with, the more who will be inclined to use it with me, the more I will have to give.

So be polite. It costs nothing.
Be kind, and it pays you back.
Be joyful, and we are all richer.

That's it.  So if you are having a good day, make sure you spread it around. If you are having a bad one, here is a little joy from me to give you some comfort. Fighting the good fight, spreading the happy.


  1. And if you cant do any of the above, go and hide in the pantry with a block of cooking chocolate and a bottle of wine =P

  2. Bring the wine, and I will bake the cookies :P)

  3. Thanks for that reminder, I needed it today.

  4. Very insightful post. I really enjoyed reading it. It's a good reminder. Have yourself a great weekend! :)