Moodraising On Groundhog Day

>> Saturday

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Phil Conner (played by Bill Murray) is a weatherman who gets stuck in time, reliving the same day over and over, always waking up on the morning of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) until he finds happiness. Once he attains happiness, he makes it out of Groundhog Day into the next day.

When the movie starts, Phil is not a very nice guy. He is sarcastic and rude. He is egotistical and selfish. Later in the movie you discover Phil acts that way because he's not happy. He is busy trying to live up to the goals society or his parents have given him and the goals of his own self-centered ego — trying to be successful, well-known, and wealthy — rather than asking himself what would really improve his mood.

Phil's goals were the kind people have when they haven't taken the time to wonder what they really want with their life. They are the built-in, default kind of goals: Impress others and have lots of money.

When he discovers he is re-living the same day, his first response is to be unnerved. He loses his cockiness and some of his rudeness. He's uncertain.

Next he begins to revel in his freedom from the rules of society. He does whatever he feels like doing. The laws don't matter any more because even when he is thrown into jail, he wakes up the next morning back in his bed, and as far as anyone else is concerned, none of it happened.

He pretty much indulges his whims, using his unusual situation (being able to anticipate what's going to happen) to his personal, selfish advantage, but he's still unconnected to who he really is and what he really wants. He just tries to satisfy his appetites for food and sex and money. He steals. He takes advantage of women by lying and pretending. He buys expensive cars.

But it gets old. None of it is making him happy. Simply indulging his appetites, as many newly rich people discover, does not produce any real satisfaction. It is an empty gratification.

Every day he goes through the motions of doing his weather report, so he sees Rita (his producer, played by Andie MacDowell) every day and he begins to realize what a good person she is. He falls in love with her, but can't reach her. As far as she is concerned, up until today he has been an egotistical jerk, and she still thinks of him that way.

So he begins an elaborate seduction, getting farther and farther with her each day, pretending to like what he doesn't like as he learns more about her, pretending to be what he's not in order to win her over. He tries to be what he thinks she wants. But she always sees through his fake character at some point — no matter how cleverly and carefully he tries — and slaps him in the face, ending his romantic ambition for the rest of the night.

Eventually he gives up on this last attempt at happiness, feeling trapped in Groundhog Day forever, with no hope of love or happiness, and he decides to kill himself.

But he won't die. Every day he wakes up in his bed again. He tries electrocuting himself, jumping off a building, stepping in front of a bus, and driving off a cliff. But nothing works.

Finally he gives up on even that, and begins to just be himself. He starts being honest. He starts noticing what he likes and wants.

He walks by an ice carving contest and realizes it looks like fun to him. He never would have even thought of doing it before because he was so focused on becoming a rich and famous weatherman.

He hears a piano and thinks learning to play the piano might be something he would enjoy doing too. He sees people having trouble of one kind or another and finds pleasure in trying to help them, using his unusual situation (being able to anticipate what's going to happen) for good instead of evil, and he begins to relax and be himself. He finds he feels good when doing good.

He discovers he likes being himself.

Because he is stuck in Groundhog Day, he can't advance his career, which is what he was obsessively focused on before, so he is free to ask what else he might want. His mood rises to a state he has never felt before.

And he finds love — not by being a phony game-player, but by simply being his honest self. And he finds happiness. "No matter what happens tomorrow," Phil says, "I am happy now." The next morning is the day after Groundhog Day. He made it to the next day.

Every Groundhog Day, I think about this movie and the lessons it teaches: if you will bloom where you're planted, pursue what is deeply important to you, be yourself, and help other people, you will enjoy good moods more often.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


A Lesson in Reframing From Groundhog Day

>> Sunday

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a weatherman named Phil. Self-centered, bitter, and sarcastic, Phil is not a happy man and he tends to make other peoples' lives more difficult.

One day Phil has to go to a little town to cover a Groundhog Day festival, and the next day he wakes up and it is still Groundhog Day (February 2nd). The next day the same thing happens. He has to live the same day, Groundhog Day, again and again. Every morning he wakes up, he's in the same place on the same day. For weeks, months, years.

Phil feels trapped, and in his anger, he tries to take advantage of the situation. He steals money, drives like a maniac, tricks women to have his way with them. He may have gone to jail the night before, but the next morning he wakes up back in his bed and nobody is the wiser. But this doesn't make him happy.

All the while, Phil talks to Rita every day. Rita is the producer of the show. He slowly realizes he loves her. Of course, she only knows him as the egocentric jerk he has been so far, so he is frustrated. At first he tries to be phony, learning all about her likes and dislikes, and trying to get her to like him. But then every morning, nobody remembers anything about the day before except him, so she thinks he's a jerk again.

Finally he gives up, gets depressed, and decides the only way out of this nightmare is to kill himself. He drives his truck off a cliff, jumps off a building, gets in a bath and drops a plugged-in toaster in the water, etc. But every morning he wakes up in his bed again, not a scratch on him.

Finally he gives up and starts being his honest self. And when he does, Rita responds to it. One day he hangs out with her all day and tells her what is going on, and she reframes his situation for him. She says, "Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes."

He changes his attitude and decides to bloom where he is planted. He decides to accept his situation and make the best of it. He decides to fulfill himself and be happy. And he does. He learns to ice-sculpt and play the piano. He starts finding people in need and helping them. He becomes a happy, satisfied man.

And then, of course, Rita falls in love with him, and once that happens, he wakes up and it is finally the day after Groundhog Day.

The movie is a good demonstration of how dramatically life can change with a new perspective. All his objective circumstances were the same. When he thought of it as a trap, as a sentence, he was miserable and made everyone else miserable too. But when he saw the opportunity in the circumstances, when he chose to make the best of it, he transformed. And he was happier, and everyone he knew was happier too.

How can this apply to you? Watch the movie and think about what you have in your life that you think of as a trap. What unchanging circumstance do you have that you resist or hate? Now ask yourself, "What might be good about this? How might I take advantage of this? How could I thrive and fulfill myself right where I am?" Honestly pondering those questions shifts your attitude, improves your mood, and opens the possibility of surprising new opportunities for joy.

- Excerpted from the book, Viewfinder, which is all about reframing.


The Antidote to Witnessing the Recent Presidential Campaign

>> Monday

An interesting article this week described the results of several experiments showing that feelings of awe might be an effective salve for the disturbing feelings we have had of late. Below are some excerpts from the article (read the whole thing here):

2016 was rough.

America's grueling presidential campaign was full of anger, searing accusations, and fear. In its wake, our country's darkest differences have been brought to light. Many families and friends have been pitted against one another. We are exhausted. We are divided. We are perhaps even a little bit depressed.

So allow me to offer you some good news.

I'm here to tell you, downtrodden countrymen (and women), that there is a remedy for our particular affliction. It can be found in the flutter of a hummingbird's wings, or the determined eyes of a crouching snow leopard. It's in the gallop of a giraffe as it's pursued across the tundra, and the heroic leap of a penguin from razor-sharp cliffs. Mix in a cinematic score by Hans Zimmer and the soothing sounds of David Attenborough's voice, and the formula is complete. Lift your eyes to the TV screen, my weary friends. What we need now, perhaps more than ever, is a hefty dose of Planet Earth.

I'm a nature nerd and an awe junkie. Regular injections of natural beauty help keep me afloat in a world that would otherwise drag me down. I need brushes with wonder to maintain my sanity. I need that swelling in my chest and goosebumps down my spine, that tear-jerking act of kindness, or brilliant full moon, or stirring speech. Awe and wonder just make me feel good.

And I'm not alone. Scientists believe awe might actually be good for our physical health. In one groundbreaking study, researchers measured participants' levels of something called interleukin-6, a molecule known to promote inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of this stuff have been linked to chronic ailments like depression and autoimmune diseases. The theory is that the lower your levels of IL-6, the better your overall health. In the study, awe was "the strongest predictor" of lower levels of IL-6, the authors write, even stronger than regular brushes with other positive emotions like love and joy.

"We know positive emotions are important for well-being, but our findings suggest they're also good for our body," says positive psychology researcher Jennifer Stellar, the study's lead author.

Read the whole article here: The Scientific Reason You Should Be Watching Planet Earth.



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