The Pursuit of Happiness

We are living in troubling times. It’s hard to avoid the news reports about Wall Street, mortgage mishaps, and the cresting wave of layoffs and pay cuts.

happypuzzlePoliticians and economists continue to bicker over how long this downturn will last. Either way, we can’t spend the next several months in crisis mode. To survive, it’s better to focus on some bright spots — and life provides many reasons to smile … too many to list today.

Still, I wanted to look deeper into ways of finding joy during down times. In the spring of this year, I started my research by going to the “Happiest Place on Earth” — the Internet.

A quick Google search found Web sites like:

I also found a blog called The Happiness Project on

The Happiness Project published an article Feeling Happier: 9 Tips for Making Yourself Feel Better in a Crisis.”

This was exactly what I was looking for. I could just read about how to be happy, serene and reduce stress during difficult times. Theoretically, my research would be very useful if I ever needed it. (And I didn’t think that I’d ever need it.)
About two weeks later, I was driving to work, my mind was filled with plans for that day, all the tasks that needed my attention, and all the important things that just couldn’t get done without me. Then, BLAM!!! My car was hit by another vehicle.

My Camry spun around and hit two parked cars before stopping in the middle of the street. It took a few second to register what had just happened. I did a quick body check, and was well enough to move, so I got out of the car.

As I exchanged insurance information with the other driver, and assessed the damage to my car, something became very obvious: I WAS IN A CRISIS.


How to Feel Better in a Crisis Tip #1 Remind yourself that “it could be worse.”

I didn’t need a blog to tell me about this one.

I was just in a major car accident and my most serious injury was a bruised shoulder. Oh, and I bit my tongue. No one involved was seriously injured. Thank you, God.

The most damage was to my car. I was in the tow truck, escorting my beloved Camry on what would be her funeral procession, when the tow truck driver gave his prognosis: A total loss. I just looked at him and shrugged.

Accident Scene
Accident Scene

“Of course my car is totaled,” I told him, “I just paid it off a few weeks ago.”

But things could have turned out to be so much worse.

My insurance company gave me a reasonable settlement; enough for me get another car. And even though I was about to take on another car payment, in these economic times, I’m one of the lucky ones who has a steady paycheck. I’m not complaining.

In the days following the accident, I felt physically and emotionally drained. I allowed myself to leave work early, and go for walks to relieve stress.

Tip #2 — Remember Your Body.

“It’s very tempting to run yourself ragged trying to deal with a crisis,” the blog reads, “but in the long run, you just wear yourself out.”

Instinctively knew I needed balance. I made point to eat regular meals and get plenty of sleep. I knew my body needed rest, but I also went to work most days. I was fairly productive at work, too, which did make me feel better.

It would have been easy for me to bury myself in work and block out the accident. Instead, I heeded Tip #3 — Do something fun.

This tip was made easier, thanks to Netflix. When I needed to tune out, I popped in a DVD of my favorite comedy and have a good laugh.

Sometimes I was tempted to stay in escape mode and not deal with all the consequences of the accident. Instead, I implemented Tip #4 — Take action.

My mantra become “one step at a time.” I can only deal with the insurance claims and car-buying options one step at a time. So why worry about 10 things at once?

Taking action helped to keep me out of self pity. There is nothing like a car accident to remind you of how unpredictable and uncontrollable life can be. My emotions would vacillate between being overwhelmed and feeling powerless.

Of course I’ve asked myself “why did this happen?” I continue to look for meaning in all this, which is Tip #5.

I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. However, those reasons aren’t always immediately clear. I might never know why that car collided with mine last spring.

And I really can’t wrap my head around the idea that:

  1. I walked away from the crash relatively unharmed, and
  2. I was able to benefit from this bad economy by getting a great deal on a brand new car.

I do know that this experience showed me there was a disconnect between the person I want to be, and how I was living my life. In the days since the accident, I haven’t been as judgmental or critical of people as I once was.

I’ve also learned to ask for help from others, which was very hard for me. No man is an island, but I was living as if I were a peninsula.

About a week after the accident I woke up with a sharp pain in my stomach. I was referred to the hospital for a CAT scan.

As much as I wanted to be strong, independent and go to the hospital alone, I just couldn’t do it.  I was weary and scared. I needed help.

It was time for Tip #6 — Spend time with family and friends.

Photo by Cheryl Empey
Photo by Cheryl Empey

My sisters was a big support for me all along, taking my phone calls and offering wanted and unwanted advice. However, I was grateful when our mom was able to come with me for the CAT scan. I can proudly stand before you, as a mature adult and say: Sometimes you just need your mommy!

My mother is also a registered nurse. Her instant confirmation of the test results was comforting.  I had a muscle tear in my abdomen, but it wasn’t serious. Again, it could have been worse.

Tip #7 — When you are in a crisis, work on a project, or make something else better to lift your spirits.

In the midst of all this drama, I had a publication that needed editing. I have never been more willing to get out my purple pen and get to work.

I also took on a project at home. After months of procrastinating, I finally reorganized my PEZ collection.  Now all my Star Trek PEZ are properly displayed — and that alone makes me happy.

Tip #8 — Act toward other people as you wish they’d act toward you.

As I said, since the accident a few months ago, I have been less critical of people, more open, and more willing to share my feelings. Surprisingly, I’ve also been more relaxed. I’m just able to take things in stride.

The Happiness Project blog lists only eight tips for feeling better in a crisis, not nine, as the title promised.

So here is a 9th tip from me — Remember that any crisis is temporary.

A crisis, by its very nature is overwhelming and turbulent. When swimming in muck and mire, it’s difficult to see the shore. Just knowing that there is a shore, that there is a light at end of tunnel, is sometimes enough to make you feel better.

Whether the crisis is a car accident, mortgage troubles or an uncertain job market, these eight tips from The Happiness Project, and one tip from me, can help to manage your stress.

Just remember that this too shall pass. And keep looking up.

7 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Having read this I believed it was really informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  2. What’s up, I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic
    style is witty, keep up the good work!

  3. It is appropriate time to make some plans for
    the future and it’s time to be happy. I desire to read even more things about it!

  4. Hi Denise! I saw the nice mention of my blog, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate those kind words and you shining a spotlight on my blog! Thanks and best wishes,

  5. Thanks, Kim! The accident was in March of this year. “I’ll check out “Happiness is a Serious Problem.” Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. Thanks, Denise. I’m glad you are OK. When did the accident happen? I hope you are really OK (or better than OK). I just posted a twitter about Dennis Prager’s book, Happiness is a serious problem. It also has some good advice/perspective on happiness. Have a good week, Denise!
    Kim Bartels (attendee at MCDA Roundtable on networking, and recent twitter person!)

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