Friday, March 4, 2011

Words, Words, Words from Martha Washington

"I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." Martha Washington

I found this nugget on the Happy News website today, and to an extent, I agree with Martha. How people react to circumstances does vary according to their dispositions. For instance, patient people weather the storms of life much more calmly than impatient people. Cheerful people might get knocked down by circumstances, but they will rebound much more quickly and work their way through the bad times more easily than morose people.

It reminds me of a study I read a few years ago. The researchers looked at college yearbook photos to see if smiles (or lack thereof) in the photos predicted future happiness. Decades after the photos were taken, people with smiley yearbook photos were much more likely to report higher levels of happiness than the people who had not smiled for their photo.

Geneticists tell us our disposition is programmed into our genes. Self-help gurus tell us we can think our way to a happier disposition. I suspect that, as usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

What do you think?


  1. Such a true statement! Obviously, tragic circumstances are always going to be tragic, but your disposition makes an enormous difference to how you deal with that.

    I'm generally a very self-critical person. Not by choice, and I often try to fight that within myself, but I've wondered about how much of that is inherited. Nature vs Nurture. I think it's a bit of both.

    Hmm... very thought provoking...

  2. It's quite a coincidence but my husband and I were discussing this subject this morning and I agree and he did to. We are or at least can be, very much in control of how we react to a given set of circumstances. How nice to find an area in our lives in which we have some control.
    Martha Washington was a wise lady and thank you Susan for a very thoughtful post :0) xxx

  3. I agree with you, Susan, that it's probably somewhere in the middle. Once I realized that it's up to me to control my reactions to situations and circumstances AND I made the decision that my reaction(s) should be positive as much as possible, I found that those around me seemed to "tag along." These days I find that I am shedding myself of the gloomy Gus' and focusing on those who want to find the glass half full rather than half empty. It's not easy, but it can be done. Thanks for the "Thought of the Day". A good reminder.

  4. Yep, I would think it was in the middle as you can't help but be affected by life around you. IF something goes wrong I try to think, well, what's the worst that can happen, which is usually not SOOO bad and then move on. By the way, I have ordered Pioneer Woman's book (still don't know alot about her but have her blog on my list), I am looking forward to reading it.

  5. I've often thought you own your own disposition. Even though I'm fairly pessimistic, I'm still pretty good at keeping me from being bitter. I'm not sure I can agree that it is genetic.

  6. i like a quote from abraham lincoln along the lines of "most people are about as happy as they want to be"..and i usually agree with that. there are wealthy people who are just miserable and crabby and hurtful, and those who have little but have learned to be content and satisfied. a happy medium is a good place!

  7. Remember that happiness is a way of travel - not a destination. (Roy M. Goodman)

    Along with that, I tell my adult children that one must pick and choose their battles. Every little detail cannot go "your way." Hold out for the ones that are most important to you, and let the other person win some. That makes us both happy.

  8. For some people it is easy to always look on the bright side of life, and then that itself makes life seem more pleasant. I'm mostly optimistic about things, but I have family members who struggle with this much more. I think it is definitely genetic in origin, but you can work on it. It just takes a lot of effort for some people to see the positive.



Thanks so much for taking time to comment!