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EVERYBODY can be happy

13 November 2018 - Dr Jan Orman

Have you ever spoken to someone and thought “OMG! I would be depressed too if I were in their shoes”? Of course you have! But have you ever met someone who despite all the bad luck and set backs has remained optimistic and been able to make the best out of what would be for others an impossible and unbearable situation? In my experience the latter type are the rarer breed.

Making the best of things

I listened to an episode of This American Life last night that I think should be compulsory listening for everyone in the world!

Do you know This American Life? It is arguably the most famous podcast of all and its presenter, Ira Glass, is a hero to podcasters everywhere. The podcast has been produced since 1995 and each episode consists of a themed story or set of stories that follows the experience of real Americans. It ranges from joyful to very, very scary and approaches everything from personal experience and identity to politics and beyond.

If you haven’t discovered This American Life start with Episode 504 “How I got into College” It’s the story of a boy from Bosnia who came to the USA as a refugee with no English and is now a professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

The stories we tell are what make us who we are

I don’t want you to listen to this episode to learn about the Bosnian civil war or to hear yet another rags to riches in America story, I want you to listen to it because of what it says about happiness and what we can do to achieve it. It says that happiness is not determined by what happens to us but by how we perceive those events and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Like a lot of people, I’ve spent a good deal of my life selectively remembering the bad stuff and focusing on the losses. I thought I was being a realist, but I have come to realise that I have probably just been contributing to my own unhappiness. I’ve decided that I am going to tell myself different stories from now on. I’m going to focus on and remember the things that I am grateful for and be happy that things have turned out as well as they have.

And what about the truth?

In this age of false facts and disinformation this podcast could also be said to be about the shapeshifting nature of the truth. If anything, it is about choosing the version of the truth that makes you happy. Is that OK do you think?

Dr Jan Orman
Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

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