Seems to me the amount of laughter and shouting, high fives and hoots is greatly increasing. Sometimes it’s not a choice, it’s a command from those around you. And it may be making you miserable.

Take a Zumba teacher I ran into recently. Not only is she constantly yelling encouraging phrases like “great!”, “good going,” but also she demands the class shout back at her. Whoops, yeah-hey, uh-huh. If the students aren’t sufficiently loud enough for her, she’ll lean in toward us, hand behind ear to encourage an increase in volume. These noises are accompanied with high-fives as she scoots between the rows as well as stomach bumps. She’s not alone in her approach. In my spinning class, the instructor’s claps and shouts and music are so loud, I’m forced to wear ear plugs.

Most visible are the personalities on television. Each news hour is replete with jokes between newscasters, calls for “best day ever!” As repartee leaps from person to person, the level of hysteria rises higher until I expect a report on a new tragedy, war, or disaster will be interspersed between guffaws. And for casual interactions between miscellaneous folks in a store or on the street, it’s common to be concluded with “Make a great day!”

I object to this trend. If I’m in a bad mood, if a friend has died, a check bounced, a daughter doesn’t call, the meal burns, a huge bill sent, a politician’s spouted another lie, why do I have to pretend everything’s wonderful?

I realize that humans usually smile or laugh when pleased or trying to establish a pleasant social interaction. And I do so frequently. Not just in public either. Last night I got the giggles as I read the latest Ladies #1 Detective Agency novel. I simply don’t want to manipulated into false gaiety like a ventriloquist’s puppet.

To me, people insisting on happiness, joy, smiles, laughs all the time are like substance abusers constantly searching for a high. They’re bound to drop into a destructive dejection eventually. There’s value in feeling emotion, every type of emotion, to its height and depth, but restricting yourself to the so-called positive ones can’t be great for you.

I’ve found people who agree with me. Danish psychology professor Svend Brinkmann from Aalborg University says forcing ourselves to be happy all the time could leave us emotionally stunted. Some believe trying to be cheerful all the time can actually hurt us, stunt creativity, set an unrealistic and ever-impossible goal, hinder our ability to relate to those around us. We evolved to experience a range of emotions, says Time magazine. To avoid the negative ones limits us and, surprise!, ultimately our personal satisfaction.

So if you, like me, feel forced to laugh on the inside while crying on the inside, do yourself a favor and fuhgeddaboudit. You’ll do yourself more good by experiencing the full menu of emotions.

A Muffled Drum Roll From Me, For Me, Then a Crescendo of Happiness

cupstacking2I feel depressed when I read those notices in newspapers or chat with others about people’s multiple accomplishments. Compared to me, everyone in the world seems to be a raving success. They publish several novels a year, start businesses, win awards, are asked to speak at conferences and, even more, get paid for it!  They run marathons in their spare time, make the “top ten” list in whatever subject interests them, say cooking or astronomy or cup-stacking competitions.  Even worse, they write, call, email and blog about what they’ve done, to the point I want to avoid meetings and acquaintances, reading my mail, or communicating in any fashion, even smoke signals.

Maybe you’re challenged or energized by such information. Not I. When I was a kid, I fell for the Great American Dream. Anyone can be president or a millionaire, if you just try hard enough. I’ve learned that’s not true. Take my primary interest: writing books. UNESCO reports more than 300,000 books were published in the US in 2013 (fiction and nonfiction, as well as new editions of old books). I can’t name 3000 people I know, let alone 300,000 or the books they might read. I may have owned 10,000 books myself over the course of my life. Realistically, the odds of me or anyone selling tons of books are miniscule. In the realm of fantasy, everyone’s doing it.

I have a friend with an even more aggravated sense of inferiority than mine. Take her to a group in which friends mention their thriving children or a promotion on the job, and she refuses to see them again. I try to tell myself to be realistic, my life is going fine. But the sounds of all these folks beating their own drums and tooting their own horns makes me deaf and discouraged.

A change of attitude seems required. I’ve heard about two studies on the secret to happiness. One claims that people who are mildly self-delusional are happier than realists. The young woman sashaying across the club floor thinking all eyes are on her is more contented than the model who constantly seeks flaws in her appearance. So, for example, if I decide I’ve written the very best novel in the world, I’m better off believing that than comparing my work to National Book Award winners.

The second study says those with low expectations are happier than individuals with high expectations. That means my approach to getting published years ago, when I assumed I’d eventually win the Noble Prize for Literature, was almost guaranteed to make me frustrated and discouraged; whereas a writer who never expected any work to appear in print is overjoyed to produce a chap book of her own poems.

Since today, the day I’m writing this, heralds a new year, here are my resolutions:

* Talk myself into mild self-delusion, that I am, in fact, climbing mountains, achieving wonders, and becoming the best (if not best-selling) author in the world;

* Set my expectations in every arena very low. Rather than striving to lose 30 pounds, shoot for one. No more trying to write every day; a couple of times a week is fine. Forget hoping for world peace, a pleasant “good morning” from a neighbor’s fine.

Then I’ll be out bragging, tooting my own horn, and endlessly broadcasting on FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever, with the best of ‘em.