In the movie Zombieland, Jessie Eisenberg’s and Woody Harrelson’s characters try to “enjoy the little things” to cope with life in a zombie apocalypse, like savoring a box of Twinkies after months of craving them. Amidst the threat of being eaten alive, they still manage to manufacture happiness with a simple snack. Life may bring its share of zombies, but it also offers an abundance of “Twinkies,” or happiness generators, for us to discover and use to increase our sense of joy and wellbeing. How many of these do we leave unclaimed?
Many people live in a zombie apocalypse
Living in oppressive circumstances, and lacking the ability to change them for the foreseeable future, is much like living in a zombie apocalypse, minus the being eaten part. On paper, people may have the ability to escape a bad job, marriage, living situation, or political environment, but in reality, certain values or necessities hold them in place. For instance, David may feel miserable in his job, but leaving it would create a drop in income severe enough to force him to lose his home and relocate his family, which to him would feel worse. Mary may feel depressed in her marriage, but her religious values prohibit divorce, which if she pursued it would result in extreme guilt and rejection from her family and community. Finally, even if Monte could meet the immigration requirements for moving to Canada, he couldn’t find work there, much less handle the cold. All three remain stuck in what feels to them like an oppressive, dismal situation, and nothing they do will stop the zombies from advancing.
My friend Denise lives barricaded in her basement, under siege from a platoon of zombies in her life (metaphorically speaking), with only her cats to bring her solace. One day, I sent her a funny video of cats kicking dogs out of their beds, and she loved it! I had discovered one of those little things that can bring Denise happiness despite the threat of consumption by the undead. How many silly cat videos and pictures could I send her? YouTube and Facebook offer an endless supply, and they have yet to lose their positive effect on Denise. Now, she has mobilized a team of funny feline procurement specialists to continue lightening her mood and decreasing her attention to the zombies clawing at her walls.
How many happiness generators can you capture?
Amusing animal videos are the tip of the iceberg for manufacturing happiness. Although sources of positive emotion are specific to each person’s tastes, I am happy to start the list and stimulate ideas….
Real animals, and children
Dogs and cats are funny. Dogs will smother a complete stranger with affection, attack a broom as if it were the Anti-Christ, and howl when someone sings off key. Cats will ignore you for hours, then hock up a hairball and curl in your lap, not necessarily in that order. Both use a myriad of techniques to amuse humans—sometimes their appearance alone will accomplish this—and we have the power to ignore them or be entertained by them multiple times a day. Goats can be hilarious, too. However, nothing possesses more ways to delight us than children. One of the most wonderful sights in the universe is a toddler trying to run after barely learning to walk. I challenge you to think about the zombies in your life while witnessing that (don’t bother, it’s impossible). The best part about these happiness generators is that you do not have to be a parent or pet owner to enjoy them. They are everywhere!
An alternative to common emoji, Bitmoji lets you create an avatar of yourself using lifelike graphics, then applies your avatar to hundreds of images with messages like “Right On!”, “Aw Shucks”, “You Rock!”, and “That Sucks!” It can also pair your avatar with a variety of holiday messages, and generate other wordless images like thumbs up, microphone drop, sleeping in a hammock, slaying a dragon, and jumping a shark on water skis. The genius of Bitmoji is that once you and your contacts start texting these images back and forth, you end up laughing ten times more each day than B.B. (Before Bitmoji). My inspiration to write this piece started the moment I received the grinning Bitmoji on the right (or above, if you’re reading this on your phone).
Small acts of kindness
We may expect a lot from the people in our lives, but we can still celebrate their efforts. When a server refills my glass in a restaurant, I view that as an act of kindness, and allow her gesture to warm my heart, ignoring the fact that it’s her job and she’s probably hoping for a better tip. Other “Twinkies” of this category could include:
- a train passenger offering her seat (to anyone—doesn’t have to be me)
- an appliance deliveryman sticking around five extra minutes to demonstrate how to operate the complex machine he installed, despite his tight schedule
- a person yelling, “You dropped something!” to the stranger that just dropped something (again, you don’t have to be the one that dropped something to celebrate this act of kindness, although you might celebrate more enthusiastically if it were you that dropped it).
- a teenager taking her plate to the kitchen without being asked
- a driver letting you cut into a solid line of traffic, or waving if you let him cut in
When we find ourselves in the midst of a personal zombie apocalypse, the universe still provides us with all varieties of happiness generators. It’s our job to seek them out, claim them, and allow them to raise our spirits so we keep fighting. If we don’t enjoy the little things, the zombies may eat us alive.
by Jason Sackett, LCSW, PCC, CEAP
Professional Staff at CWFL