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!
Bitmoji and memes
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 this grinning Bitmoji from my dad (on the right, or above, if you’re reading this on your phone).
Memes are another example of little things that make people's day, and in turn generate happiness for you. You can find a plethora of ready-to-send memes that say "Happy birthday," "Congratulations," "Great job!" etc. If you're more ambitious, you can create your own memes with an app called Mematic, which allows you to upload any picture and conveniently add captions to it. For example, when a client's mother told me that her son liked me after our first meeting (which was not a guarantee), I sent her the classic Sally Field meme, but tailored with proper grammar.
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:
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.