Do as Burkeman suggests in The Antidote: Happiness for Those Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He believes people work too hard on some goals. For him, life is about being comfortable with uncertainty. What may support you in that awareness is to pull up some examples from your and others’ lives of when you made it through tough times. It could relate to financial, romantic, career, or other situations. For me, when I added a very large amount to what I’d owe on my mortgage for a real estate investment in 2008 which lost money, I remember my fears about possibly losing my own home. I remind myself even now when financial concerns come up that I made it through that difficulty. I do have a larger mortgage payment now, and I am able to pay that with rent from my six housemates. I see no value in spending time thinking about what bad things could happen. I don’t mean to ignore what’s going on. I do mean to remember that, right now, you are probably managing the best you can, and you can’t expect more than that, from yourself or from others.

You don't have to be happy every day. It's OK to be sad; trust yourself that you'll feel happier soon. It comes in ups and down. There's also not always a reason. Feelings can be like wisps of cloud drifting through the streets, suddenly deciding for no discernible reason to rush into you. Just because a feeling rushes into you, though, doesn't mean you have to suffer it. You can just step aside and show it to the door.


To this day, I admit, I’m not entirely sure how to use this information. I cannot quite bring myself to make an official motto out of “Ask for less!” Nor can I imagine advising a young woman on the eve of her marriage to lower her expectations in life in order to be happy. Such thinking runs contrary to every modern teaching I’ve ever absorbed. Also, I’ve seen this tactic backfire. I had a friend from college who deliberately narrowed down her life’s options, as though to vaccinate herself against overly ambitious expectations. She skipped a career and ignored the lure of travel to instead move back home and marry her high school sweetheart. With unwavering confidence, she announced that she would become “only” a wife and mother. The simplicity of this arrangement felt utterly safe to her—certainly compared to the convulsions of indecision that so many of her more ambitious peers (myself included) were suffering. But when her husband left her twelve years later for a younger woman, my friend’s rage and sense of betrayal were as ferocious as anything I’ve ever seen. She virtually imploded with resentment—not so much against her husband, but against the universe, which she perceived to have broken a sacred contract with her.
17The clinch image carries a double semiotic code and has the potential to be interpreted differently by the public and the romance reader. To the public at large, the clinch image likely signifies simply the genre identity of the popular romance. This interpretation is based on the strong semantic connection between this image and the popular romance genre that exists in our culture as a result of the incessant reformulation of this type of image on the front cover of category romance novels since the 1970s.10 As a visually striking and instantly recognizable image with only a limited range of potential variations, the clinch quickly attained an iconic status and has become the cover design shorthand par excellence for popular romance. Although the constant reformulations of the image on a seemingly endless string of category romance front covers reinforce and perpetuate a number of cultural stereotypes about the romance genre, including interpretations of the genre as formulaic, overly sexualized and more than a little ridiculous, the category romance is steadfast in its love for the clinch cover.11
Moore has written several Unix shell scripts that run on-the-fly background checks on people who use wireless networks in his neighborhood. With the help of the popular network-traffic analysis utility Netcat, his script "sniffs all the traffic on the Wi-Fi network, greps for email addresses, and looks them up on Friendster." Then the script sends Moore an email that includes a link to the users' Friendster profiles, along with their pictures and login IDs.
Spinning his computer around, he invites me to try his Soul mate Calculator, an app he wrote to convince people that they need his SocialGrid technology. A page full of pulldown menus and checkboxes boots up: The calculator uses a simple script to crunch US census figures on age, gender, and geographic location to estimate how many people I'll have to meet before I find my soul mate. To fill the thing out I need to decide what my potential mate's ethnicity should be, and whether I want him or her to be in the top 10 percent of people in terms of facial attractiveness, optimism, or musical talent. Also, how compassionate do I want my soul mate to be? Top 50 percent? Top 1 percent?
Compulsive comparing, of course, only leads to debilitating cases of what Nietzsche called Lebensneid, or “life envy”: the certainty that somebody else is much luckier than you, and that if only you had her body, her husband, her children, her job, everything would be easy and wonderful and happy. (A therapist friend of mine defines this problem simply as “the condition by which all of my single patients secretly long to be married, and all of my married patients secretly long to be single.”) With certainty so difficult to achieve, everyone’s decisions become an indictment of everyone else’s decisions, and because there is no universal model anymore for what makes “a good man” or “a good woman,” one must almost earn a personal merit badge in emotional orientation and navigation in order to find one’s way through life anymore.
Live in the moment. Another trick to being happier is to learn to embrace the present moment instead of feeling regret for the past or dreading the future. Learn to enjoy the conversations you have, instead of thinking about where you’re going to go next or worrying about that thing you said twenty minutes ago. Learn to appreciate the things in front of you, the good time you’re having, and to cast away all thoughts of anything outside of your immediate experience. Obviously, this takes a lot of dedication, but you’ll see your happiness level rise dramatically once you get the hang of it.[2]
Comic books had had heroines intended to appeal to young women and men alike since the war years, when the quotient of females in the home-front marketplace expanded at the same time that military readership increased the demand for drawings of shapely young female characters suitable for pinning up. With many male artists drafted, moreover, women artists found more work and were frequently assigned to do the female-oriented comics. There were jungle girls to outnumber the African population: Camilia (drawn by Fran Hopper and the supremely talented Marcia Snyder), Judy of the Jungle (by the versatile Alex Schomberg), Tiger Girl (by Matt Baker), Sheena (perpetuated by innumerable artists under Jerry Iger, and countless others.) There were costumed heroines and quasi-military heroines: Phantom Lady (by Matt Baker), Yankee Girl (by Ann Brewster), the Blond Bomber, and the Girl Commandos (both of the latter drawn by Jill Elgin and Barbara Hall). There were science-fiction heroines-Gale Allen and Her All-Girl Squadron and Mysta of the Moon (both by Fran Hopper) — and there was a wondrous assortment of strong, smart, and sexy proto-postfeminists: the nurse-turned-aviatrix Jane Martin (by Fran Hopper and Ann Brewster), “girl detective” Glory Forbes (by Jean Levander), and the crime-solving fashion model Toni Gayle (by Janice Valleau, who sometimes signed her married name, Winkleman). “We always had a love angle, even though the stories were adventure stories, really, but the girls in the stories, like Toni Gayle, who I loved to do, had it all over the men,” said Janice Valleau Winkleman. “Even in the love stories, where the girls were always chasing the men, the girls were smarter and sexier.”
“Love” comics had suddenly become popular and so Marvel introduced My Romance in September 1948. Close behind it were Love Romances, Love Adventures, Love Tales, Love Dramas and a load of others, including My Love and Our Love. Again, Marvel was playing follow the leader, and again, some of the titles in this new genre would enjoy unusually long runs. The redundantly titled Love Romances, kept on chronicling the trials of the heartbroken until July, 1963.
Vacations usually happen over the course of several days and can sometimes take several weeks, so if you’re going to take company along you’ll want to make sure you really like them. You’re also making memories that last for a lifetime. Generally speaking, people who take vacations together not only enjoy each other’s company, but are happy to make memories together, so if you take vacations together it’s a good sign that you and your love are truly committed.
Laughter is not just a way to feel good, it’s a release of fear. Imagine laughing with relief after a close call with a snake. Social risks are more common than predator risk in modern life, and we often fear expressing a socially unacceptable emotion. Social shunning is a real survival threat in the state of nature, so we are wired to take these things seriously. Comedians often express socially risky feelings. When they survive, the part of you that fears shunning laughs with relief. You can think of laughing as creating safety instead of thinking it’s frivolous.
Meeting the Hmong women that day in Vietnam reminded me of an old adage: “Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment.” My friend the Hmong grandmother had never been taught to expect that her husband’s job was to make her abundantly happy. She had never been taught to expect that her task on earth was to become abundantly happy in the first place. Never having tasted such expectations to begin with, she had reaped no particular disenchantment from her marriage. Her marriage fulfilled its role, performed its necessary social task, became merely what it was, and that was fine.
Again, the very shape of my curiosity seemed a mystery to the grandmother. Politely, though, she gave it a try. She had never particularly met her husband before she married him, she tried to explain. She’d seen him around, of course. There are always a lot of people around, you know. She couldn’t really remember. Anyway, she said, it is not an important question as to whether or not she knew him when she was a young girl. After all, as she concluded to the delight of the other women in the room, she certainly knows him now.

The issue of gender is linked to violence in Wertham’s study, since women are generally victims in comic books. Wertham believed the blending of sensuality with cruelty was a particularly disturbing aspect of comic book ideology that had a great deal of resonance with the disdain for the opposite sex that young male readers often had. In many comic books, women were portrayed as objects to be abused or to be used as decoys in crime settings. Women who did not fall into the role of victim were generally cast as villains, often with masculine or witchlike powers. These plots suggested that men had to present a united front against such women. Wertham commented, “In these stories there are practically no decent, attractive, successful women” (191). Wertham also objected to the genre known as romance or love comics. Such comics moved from the realm of physical violence against women to psychological violence in which the main female character is often humiliated or shown to be inadequate in some way.
One of the very first signs of commitment in a relationship is when two people spend lots of time together. Outside of normal working hours and with all the things you could be doing in a day, there usually isn’t much time left over to spare. And since time is one of the few commodities that none of us can get back, the fact that you and your significant other choose to make time for each other on a regular basis is a good sign that you’re both committed.
If you consider that the average life expectancy is between 70 and 80 years of age and that a third of that time is spent sleeping, the fact that you and your sweetheart talk about how to spend the hours you have remaining together is significant. When you’re single you can make decisions based on your wants alone. In a committed relationship, however, it matters what the other person wants to do and where they see themselves in the future. So if you and your partner are making plans together, there’s a good likelihood that your relationship is in for the long haul.
7The system of lines defines the category romance format in many ways and is perhaps more intricate than it seems at first sight. Each category romance is published in a series or line that has a particular narrative profile. Although these profiles appear to be characterized by a single defining trait (Blaze novels are erotic, Intrigue novels feature a suspense storyline, Medical Romance novels are set in a medical context), they are in fact composite and are made up of a conglomerate of narrative features. For example, Blaze novels are not only characterized by a high level of sensuality, but are also always set in a contemporary (usually North American) setting, feature a heroine who is between twenty-five and thirty-three and a hero between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-eight and have an average word count of 60,000 words (“Harlequin Blaze”).5 Each line is thus differentiated from others via this conglomerate of primary and secondary line-characteristics. Although the lines may appear simplistic to the outside world, the finely-tuned differentiation between lines is very important within the genre’s system, as the (commercial) viability of a line depends in part on the extent to which it can be differentiated from another line.
When I describe this to a lot of my clients they say “that sounds so boring!” I think if it is seen at the wrong level (that our relationships should be a constant source of excitement rather than a place to demonstrate care and “loving” for someone), then yes, it is boring. The solution I try to pass along is that people can have a stable relationship and an exciting life together.” Rather than have a long interpersonal drama, go on vacation, take up new activities, explore new sexual practices, etc. Many people also get concerned when they move from romantic into committed love, and think something is “wrong” with the relationship, or that they have “fallen out of love”, and they often miss the opportunity for a sustainable loving relationship.
[i] e.g., Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Foster, C. A., & Agnew, C. R. (1999). Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 942-966.; Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., Low, S. M., Clements, M. L., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sacrifice as a predictor of marital outcomes. Family Process, 45, 289-303.
I used to be such a starry-eyed believer of love. I thought that love conquered all - and that as long as you shared that feeling with someone, it meant that the relationship would last. In the theory of fairytales and movies, this may be the case, but in North American reality - not quite. Instead, love is only one of the many ingredients needed for a long-lasting partnership. But the concerning issue is - people put so much weight on the feeling of love, a feeling that inevitably changes, takes different forms and can get blinded easily.

To build this new circuit and train your brain with how to feel happier, notice your usual strategy for feeling “on top of things,” and do the opposite. For example, if you are a person who tries to bake the perfect soufflé, spend forty-five days cooking without recipes. Conversely, if you are a person who likes to just throw things into a pot, spend forty-five days following recipes.


Look, I don’t want to risk romanticizing the oh-so-simple life of the picturesque rural peasant here. Let me make it clear that I had no desire to trade lives with any of the women that I met in that Hmong village in Vietnam. For the dental implications alone, I do not want their lives. It would be farcical and insulting, besides, for me to try adopting their worldview. In fact, the inexorable march of industrial progress suggests that the Hmong will be more likely to start adopting my worldview in the years to come.
Because he's had such a hard time finding someone, Filkins spins out endless scenarios for dating hyper-personalization. "I would design the initial set of questions that people answer to create their FOAF file," he says. "Then there would be a system available to build new ones. If, for example, transsexuals wanted to use the protocol, they could come up with their own particular set of questions to ask."
Your dreaded task may miraculously resolve itself in less than forty-five days! If so, don’t stop. Find another painful mess so you keep going for forty-five more days. That’s what builds the habit of facing tough challenges in small increments instead of being intimidated by them. Remember to feel good about what you’ve done each day. Soon, you’ll have the habit of tackling obstacles and feeling rewarded by it, which is a great way to feel happy.

Coexisting without trust is bad, but getting burned again is worse. So instead of taking a leap of faith with that crazy neighbor or the coworker who stabbed you in the back, you can find steps that are comfortable. For forty-five days, craft reciprocal exchanges that build stepping stones toward trust with difficult people. You can’t predict the results since you can’t control others. But you will expand your sense of control over the trust bonds in your life. This is hard work, and it may not feel good in the short run. But in the long run, it builds confidence that you can do something about those thorns in your side learn how to feel happy in spite of them.
Although Young Romance was released by Prize comics, it should be noted that there was some resistance on the part of the publishers. Kirby tells, Evenier, “Mike [Bleiet] and Teddy [Epstein, the people who ran Prize] didn’t have much faith in Young Romance.” As a result, Simon and Kirby agreed to forgo upfront payment and were paid on the back end only if the book was a success. Of course, Simon was also able to negotiate for 50% of the profits from the book (and its follow up, Young Love). Simon explained to Evanier:
When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, eating well is clutch—especially since the nutrients you consume improve your mental health as much as your physical well-being. Case in point: Research finds that happiness and mental well-being are highest among people who eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables per day (seven portions, in this case). Check out this long list of mood-boosting nutrients here, and fill up your plate with the good stuff.
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