Let’s grin more, grumble less

There are many things that annoy the heck out of me — and the list keeps getting longer the older I get, which is a bit frightening because I don’t want to wake up someday and discover I’ve turned into one of those grouches who sneers at the younger generation, writes nasty letters to the editor, grumbles about Social Security and wishes the good old days would return.

OMG! I’ve turned into that person already! Time for therapy.

Well, if I’m going to complain, at least I want to make money doing it. Perhaps I could host my own talk radio show that lets people call in and gripe, or maybe I could start a support group called WA, Whiners Anonymous, and capitalize on a trend that’s sweeping America.

When I used to manage a newsroom, where whining was a way of life, I had a sign on my desk that proclaimed in no uncertain terms, “No WHINING!” But that didn’t stop an endless parade of people from coming into my office with a litany of complaints like “It’s SOOOO cold in here! Turn up the heat!” and “Why do we have to work on Christmas Eve??? It’s not fair!!!”

“Why? Because it’s a newspaper, and we publish 365 days a year — 366 during leap year.”

Anyway, the affliction must have been contagious because I’ve been grumbling a bit myself lately. One of the things that really rubs me the wrong way — in addition to Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, the increase in my health insurance premium, teenagers text-messaging, and dangling participles — is associating with people who are chronic “negativists.”

This, of course, is nothing new. Raising four daughters taught me a lot about life and unfulfilled expectations, not to mention the importance of looking on the bright side.

Throughout my career as a father, I’ve grown accustomed to complaints like “It’s not fair!” and “She got more than I did!”

Every Christmas I saved the receipts for the countless toys I bought so I could prove the system was equitable and that everyone was treated fairly. Just because Sister ‘A’ got a Malibu Barbie, a makeup kit, three American Girl books, and Junior Scrabble did not necessarily mean she got more than Sister ‘B,’ who only got a pink Barbie motorized sports car and a pair of underwear. The only loser was Dad, who got a travel mug and socks.

Today, I’m still surrounded by whiners. Colleagues complain about work, fellow commuters gripe because Metro-North is undeservedly raising fares 5%, and neighbors grumble because we’re taxed more and getting less.

Whenever I find myself falling into the self-pity mode, I remember something Abraham Lincoln once said: “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” However, in the 21st century, we haven’t made up our minds to be happy; we’ve made up our minds to be chronically unhappy.

The Internet only exacerbates the problem. With social networking, grumbling spreads like a plague at lightning speed, and before you know it, there’s a riot or flash mob.

A recent study by the University of Michigan concluded that the widespread popularity of social media such as Facebook is contributing to a decline in well-being. Social networking, the researchers conclude, is spreading unhappiness.

Ethan Kross, the leader of the study, which was published in the journal Public Library of Science, said, “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection, but rather than enhance well-being … it undermines it.”

Abe Lincoln, who never had a Facebook page, was right. You’re only as happy as you want to be. It’s time to smile more and whine less and turn off the computer. (But why does it hurt so much when I smile?)

Joe Pisani may be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.