I thought that it might be pretty cool, at this infantile stage of Yōkina Living, to explain why I actually chose to focus on positivity and cheerful living. To do this, it seems like a good place to start by explaining what cheerfulness means to me as, although it might seem pretty obvious, it could be quite different to what you’re expecting.
Words, words, words
So, you might be wandering why I chose to use the Japanese word yōkina ‘陽気な’ instead of the English, ‘cheerful’ and I can assure you that it isn’t just a ploy to sound fancy and exotic. Ever since I was young, I’ve been in love with Japan; starting, I think, with my love of Pokémon. I watched the show religiously, had a humongous collection of Pokémon merchandise; from my Jigglypuff backpack to a Togepi mobile charm, encyclopedias, cards, sliders… the list goes on. It’s also safe to say that Ash Ketchum steals the spot for my first ever kid crush (sorry Taylor Launtner, Shark Boy came along too late). As I got older, my fascination with all things Japan, the food, history, landscapes and culture, expanded and matured. I decided that I wanted this passion and fascination to be one of the building blocks of my blog, to showcase how my passion for exploration fuels the exploration of myself.
So, of all words why choose ‘cheerful’? It seems like a pretty simple word, just meaning to be FULL of cheer, right? Well, maybe not.
When trying to understand a word, I like to look at generic definitions (my absolute go-to when introducing a uni essay). So, when I felt something pulling me to this word, I wandered over to the Oxford English Dictionary, pulled my imaginary reading glasses down to the hook of my nose and scanned. As I read, I noticed words and phrases such as ‘light-hearted’, ‘happy’ and ‘good spirits’. This predictable barrage of positive words got me wandering about the case of bad situations and if cheerfulness was just the simple, short-term feeling of joy.
I then looked at the root word, ‘cheer’ and found it defined as ‘that which brings joy, gladness or comfort, solace; encouragement’. Just below it sat the verb ‘to cheer’, described as ‘the outward expression of euphoric joy’. It was seeing these two slightly different definitions for the same word that made me notice something, something that changed the way I look at positivity. Snuggled together in their dictionary entry sat the internal, emotional state of cheer and the external expression of this internal state. It was this that made me realise the completeness of the word; the experience of joy inside and outside, linking thoughts and feelings to behaviours, something that I think is crucial to being happy.
So, with this in mind, I asked myself again, can you be cheerful in bad times, even if cheerful seems to mean being joyful both inside and out?
I think so.
Image from becuo.com
Now for me, positivity isn’t living in a Disney princess paradise with woodland creatures baking you pies and following you round to back any impromptu musical outbursts (but, hey, if the time comes, I’d be up for that). Life is never problem-free for anyone, so how do people become happy? With completeness suggested by its definitions, the ‘grin and bear it’ approach doesn’t seem to be the answer; sure, you’ll seem cheerful on the outside, but seeming isn’t being and even though so many of us do it, I don’t think that avoiding certain emotions is such a great idea. Humans feel a plethora of emotions, some good, some bad and we can even feel a bunch of them at the same time; so surely one big step towards happiness is being able to acknowledge our emotional complexity and use this knowledge to alter how we think about things. So instead of hiding or trying to change a ‘bad’ emotion, you accept it. Instead of feeling embarrassed or resentful about being sad or angry, acknowledge that they’re natural emotions. Being able to accept your own emotions is a big step towards accepting yourself and becoming more content and yōkina!
This approach helps me to work on making myself a better and happier person. I like to think that if I’m content and aware that positivity is my goal, then I’m going to behave in a much more positive way, influencing my own mindset as well as effecting the people around me, kicking off a cycle of positivity that, I feel, is so crucial in a world obsessed with sad stories and cynicism.