Excerpt for Get Glad: Your Practical Guide To A Happier Life by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Introduction

Today, I am a happy and grateful man, but I haven't always been. My Dad died on Christmas day, 1963. He was 46. I was 11.

The next year in late December I came in from getting the morning newspaper and found my mother on the floor. She'd had a heart attack. I called an ambulance, and as they drove away, Christmas past flashed before my eyes. She recovered and I was blessed with her presence until 2009.

We weren't destitute. Dad had paid off our house, so - luckily - we didn't have a mortgage hanging over us. Yet, with my mother not working after her health scare, someone needed to. My uncle who worked for Shell Oil, introduced me to the owner of a service station, who hired me. So, at the age of 12, I worked Saturdays, Sundays and a couple of afternoons after school. Another Shell station opened three miles from the house, so I changed jobs to be able to ride my bike to work.

That was an unsettling two years. I moved on, not happy but wanting to be.

That's the first battle when you are unhappy: deciding being miserable is not for you.

By this time, I had a plan. I wanted to be a journalist. So, I set my sights on that goal. With something to look forward to, I stopped looking back quite so much.

I started to bounce back and become more like the happy 11-year-old I had been before life intervened.

Shortly after my high school graduation in June 1970, I took off for basic training. I wanted to serve but I also wanted to go to school. So, I had signed up in the NC Air National Guard. This allowed me to do six months active duty and then come back to NC to continue school. I attended our local community college while working a variety of jobs. Work - I came to realize - also provided me with purpose, and a means of achieving my ultimate goal.

I had always wanted to go to UNC-Chapel Hill to study broadcast journalism. On a lark, I submitted an application and the University accepted it almost immediately. Now what was I going to do? A little fearful, and a bit happier, I took off to Chapel Hill to figure it all out. A friend had family there, who had a trailer for rent. Done! And they introduced me to several folks needing employees.

History repeated itself. I worked my way through school as the night manager of an Exxon gas station.

A 78-year-old man named Butch worked with me most nights. He was a character, gruff and often short-tempered, particularly with rude people. But it was Butch who taught me one of the greatest lessons about happiness.

One evening a college student, who had more money than sense, pulled into the station. He bounded out of the souped-up Chevy, stormed over to Butch and started haranguing him. His car had been in earlier for repairs and it wasn’t fixed to his satisfaction. The young man was rude. He yelled at Butch, “I’m mad and you are going to fix this car right now.”

Butch looked at him grumpily. In his inimitable style Butch said, “By God, you better get glad if you expect me to do anything for you.”

Now, I thought this was hilarious and started dying laughing. Even the rude student realized how funny this was and joined in. It was not until much later that I realized the profound nature of Butch’s message.

He was saying that no one but you can control your attitude unless you cede that responsibility. If you let something or someone affect your happiness, that’s on you. At this point, you just need to step back for a second.  Ask yourself, why you are letting this situation or person operate your remote control. This, my friend, is easier said than done. But – like anything else – with practice it becomes a habit. Remember, that it is important if you are going to try to make someone happy, start with yourself.

I’ve used Butch’s saying a lot in my 60-plus years, and I try to live by it today. You can get glad and I want to help.

Now, I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I'm just a guy who has studied the subject of happiness and applied it to my own life. This book is my attempt to help you get a little bit happier day-by-day and start you on the road to happiness. Let's hit the road together.

Harry Hoover



Chapter 1 - The Top 7 Reasons That You Aren’t Happy

I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” - Mark Twain

I did an online survey while writing this book to find out how many people are unhappy. Here's what I found:

Always Happy               13%

Mostly Happy               39%

Sometimes Happy      39%

Never Happy                 9%

It's natural to be unhappy sometimes. No amount of positive thinking is going to change that. But the truth is that you can avoid many things that cause unhappiness and be happier. Let's examine some of the most common reasons people aren't happy. 

Top 7 Reasons Why You Aren’t Happy

  1. Worry. I believe this is the primary reason why you aren’t happy. Worry does nothing to solve a problem. It creates inaction. When you worry, you let a perceived problem control you. Happy people aren’t immune to worry. They feel it but they refuse to live it out, or let it gnaw on them. Besides, most of the bad things you can imagine, never happen. And even if something bad happens, it is rarely as bad as you imagine it. Lack of money is the primary thing about which most people worry. Yet, income and its effect on happiness is an illusion, according to a Princeton University study.  Researchers found that people with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives. The higher income subjects were only slightly happier than others in moment-to-moment experience. They also tend to be more tense, and they do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities.

  2. Lack of focus. People who don’t focus on what they are doing but instead let their minds wander, letting their negative emotions control them. Those who live in the moment, focusing on what they are doing tend to be happier.

  3. Inability to accept responsibility for your life. Unhappy people tend to view themselves as victims, that life is hard and out of their control. Instead of figuring a way out of a problem, the unhappy person wallows in the unfairness of life. Once you accept that you bear responsibility for your life, you are on the road to happiness.

  4. Belief that things can make you happy. There is no doubt that we live in a consumer society where messages tying happiness to tangible items bombard us. I helped feed that when I worked in advertising. My bad. Buying the latest car, a bigger house, or fashionable shoes give us a momentary feeling of pleasure. Until the next new thing comes along. Experiences and connections to the people we love drive happiness, not material things.

  5. Comparing yourself to others. Woe is me, the unhappy person complains. My neighbor has a great life, wonderful kids and a wonderful wife. So, you think that his good fortune somehow diminishes yours. Those doing well don't inspire the unhappy person. Instead, he dwells on how life is unfair. A happy person will view someone’s good fortune as a sign that they, too, can achieve the same success.

  6. Seeking perfection. Aiming to be perfect is a fool’s game. Achievement, school grades, class attendance, job titles, salary, and the minute detail in everything is the focus of the unhappy person. Trying to manage everything down to the smallest facet can interfere with day-to-day function. There is a happy medium between lack of focus and total control. Happy people find this middle ground.

  7. You don’t like yourself. This is so often the case with unhappy people. If you don’t like yourself, it is hard for anyone else to like you either. When you beat yourself up over some perceived personal imperfection, you don’t have time to focus on what is right about you and your life. I believe that each person is in control of his or her own happiness. You can learn to be happy, and liking yourself is the first step.

Now that we have discussed why you aren't happy, let's start getting happier.

Chapter 2. – Being Happier: An Achievable Goal

“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives.” - Dalai Lama

Are you striving for happiness when just being happier is good enough?

I don’t know anyone who is happy all the time. Well, maybe the Dalai Lama. Aside from him, happiness eludes even the most cheerful of us from time-to-time. So, I don’t think your initial aim should be to achieve utter happiness. I would recommend that you aim at a target that’s easier to hit.

I think when our goal is not happiness but being happier, it’s more achievable.

Also, it gives us something on which we can focus and measure on a daily basis. Being happier is easier to quantify than happiness.  Being happier is a moment-by-moment decision. It’s easier to answer the question “what can I do to make myself happier right now” than it is to answer the question “how can I achieve happiness.”

Here’s what I know about happiness from a personal perspective. I believe that you – not outside influences – control your level of happiness. I’m not ecstatic every single day, but I experience some happiness daily. How did I do it? I stopped striving for happiness, and just began enjoying a few moments during the day that would make me happier right then.

Now to practice being happier, you must first have the proper foundation. You’re thinking, “oh, boy, there you go Harry. A foundation sounds like hard work!” Settle down there nitro. The foundation isn’t hard.  It's based in scientific fact. If you don’t get enough sleep, don’t move enough, or let yourself get hungry happiness is tough to come by. In essence, the intersection of a sound mind and body is where we find happiness.

Let’s take a look at the science behind these.

First, sleep. It turns out that lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to negative emotions. So, by having enough sleep, it is easier for you to tune into positive emotions. Even if you don’t get enough sleep, a quick nap can turn your day around.

Next, exercise. I do recommend that everyone practice yoga and exercise with kettlebells. But I’m not saying you have to do either to get enough movement in your day to affect you level of happiness. What if I told you that there is a research-based program that takes just seven minutes to complete? It requires only your own body weight and items you have around the house. Not ready yet for an intense seven-minute interval workout? Just get outside and walk for 10 minutes. A study indicates that just being outside makes people happier.

Hungry? Then, you’re probably not happy at the moment. Science tells us that we should eat every four hours or so. In our hectic, fast-paced world, we don’t always hit that mark, and if we do we are often eating the wrong things. Sugary, starchy foods may comfort us right now, but the elevated mood passes. We're cranky and irritable when our blood sugar drops. In acute cases, we produce too much of a hormone called ghrelin. Known as the hunger hormone, ghrelin may be a key to post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related mental illnesses.

OK, now that we have the foundation in place, we can start building the happier house.



Chapter 3 – Three Steps To Speed Us On The Road To Happiness

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost.” - H. Jackson Brown

Not everyone who reads this book will want to dive deeply into our full six-step program. So, for the reader ready to get going quickly, here's the Cliffs Notes, abbreviated version.

Spoiler alert: If you read nothing else, read the chapter on being grateful because gratitude is the shortest path to happiness.

Let's get started on the road to happiness.

Our journey begins with a single step toward getting happier. You can't achieve happiness in one giant leap. We get there step-by-step, mile-by-mile, getting a little bit happier each day. Or, at least, that’s our goal.

Science has shown that 48% of our happiness level is hard-wired into us. So, the good news is that we can control the other 52% of our happiness, even if we inherited some gloomy genes.

Some incremental steps can speed you along your route to the ultimate goal: happiness. These three steps will get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Be Grateful

  2. Be A Friend

  3. Be Mindful

The Three Steps

Be Grateful. You’ve heard the pop-psychology mumbo-jumbo about how a positive outlook makes all the difference in one’s life. Well, science has proven it. Practicing gratitude rewires your brain, reduces depression and provides you with an increased feeling of well-being. Gratitude is the shortest path to happiness. If you do nothing else, begin practicing gratitude on a daily basis.

How do you go about being grateful? Here are 25 things you can do to practice gratitude:

  1. Write in a gratitude journal daily

  2. Volunteer at a local charity

  3. Give honest compliments

  4. Receive compliments graciously

  5. Laugh

  6. Smile at a stranger

  7. Tell those that you love that you love them - often

  8. Turn off the negative news

  9. Perform random acts of kindness - anonymously, if possible

  10. Send a handwritten thank you note

  11. Put down your phone and get off social media when are with friends and family

  12. Bless your meals

  13. If you get good service, tell the person's supervisor

  14. Pick up the check when you are out with close friends or family

  15. Visit and elderly neighbor or family member

  16. Review your failures and think about the positives that came from them.  For instance, I made many mistakes with my first book, Born Creative, but those lessons helped in writing this book.

  17. Celebrate someone else's success

  18. Help a friend see the positive in a trial he or she is experiencing

  19. Share something positive via social media

  20. Try to go an entire day without complaining

  21. Don't hold a grudge - (I'm still working on this one!)

  22. Notice nature's beauty

  23. Avoid gossip

  24. Take a walk and notice the trees, animals, insects, and flowers you encounter

  25. Nurture your friendships - solid ones don't come along that often and should be appreciated

I’ll tell you what I do to practice gratitude. Each morning, I write in my journal three things for which I am grateful. In the evening, I record three great things that happened that day. One of the things this does is to get you to redefine the word “great.” Just having dinner with the family can become great if you look at it that way. Additionally, I meditate each day and always conclude with thoughts on gratitude.

Your thoughts control your reality. If you think it’s great, it is. If you think it sucks, it does. As the saying goes, “When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.” Having trouble thinking of things for which you are grateful? Let me get you started with some of the items on my list, which may also be on yours:

  • My wife

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Grandsons

  • Senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch

  • Sunrises and sunsets

  • Ability to read

  • Ability to write

  • Bacon - (It’s my list. Don’t judge!)

  • Wine

  • Coffee

  • Good health

  • Music

  • Home

  • Love

  • Laughter

  • Dogs

  • The seasons

  • Rain

  • Steaks on the grill

Try to look beyond the simple gratitude list above. Science tells us that the act of finding new things for which to be grateful is most effective.

Be A Friend. To have a good friend, I believe you must first be a good friend. That’s a subject we'll delve into later in the book. Why should you have friends?


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