Is Happiness Actually a Choice We Make?
Did you know you have control over the amount of happiness you experience everyday? Yes, your happiness is a choice you make. Your level of happiness is partly a product of what you decide to focus your thoughts on every day.
First of all, some important things to remember. The opposite of happiness is unhappiness, not depression (per Gretchen Rubin, see her book below). If you are feeling depressed or are going through a traumatic situation, you should seek professional help. The problems you are experiencing are not ones you can positively think your way out of on your own. You need the tools that only a mental health professional can provide.
Secondly, for those not dealing with depression, happiness can be a choice you make every day. The good news is you have more control than you might have thought on your state of happiness. The bad news is that you have to actually do the work to be happy.
However, making the conscious choice to focus on the positive aspects of life can help us make it through even the toughest days. Here are just a few ways that you can choose happiness today.
So, how do you find your own happiness? It begins with harnessing your positive emotions as they are linked to your well-being.
How Positive Emotions and Happiness are Linked Together
The field of positive psychology (see Abraham Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs) is made up of three main components, according to Psychology Today’s article “Positive Emotions and Well-Being”. The three main components are positive emotions (the engines of positive psychology), positive individual traits (like being optimistic or kind), and positive institutions (your relationships, family, friends, community).
The article states that “By examining the mechanisms behind these three pillars – the far-reaching ripples of positive emotions, the health effects of meaningful social connections, the protective properties of our strengths and virtues – we can take an important step towards understanding our well-being.”
Dr. Barbara Fredickson, author of the book “Positivity”, is interviewed in the article. She says “Our day-to-day positive emotions function as nutrients for our overall well-being. Today’s positive emotions do not simply exemplify today’s well-being, they also help to create next month’s increases in well-being.”
Positivity Makes an Investment in Your Future Happiness
By focusing on cultivating positive thoughts and emotions like joy, gratitude, hope, and pride each day, we are making an investment in not only our happiness today but our true happiness in the future as well. She believes that in addition to having a to-do list each day, we might consider having a to-feel list as well.
Her belief is that you can nurture your ability to be resilient by spending time doing things that help you to experience positive emotions. Such as being grateful for the good things you have in your life.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore the negative experiences you encounter on a daily basis. It just means that you try to balance the negative by also focusing on what is going well in your own life.
When you are confronted with difficult situations in your life, your level of happiness can be linked to your viewpoint. Do you consider yourself a glass half full or a glass half empty person?
Happiness is a Choice Examples – Is Your Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
We’ve all heard this example before and it is a great way to illustrate there are always two ways of looking at something. And, most importantly, you control and have a choice in how you view things.
And, depending on what you focus on – the full or the empty part – can in turn determine how happy you feel. Happiness is a choice you make every single day.
Another example, you can be upset that your house’s roof has a leak, or you can be grateful you have a house, period. That is a definite oversimplification, but you can see how your life satisfaction and your happiness levels really do have a lot to do with your positive attitude about things.
Factors that Can Influence Your Happiness
Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times Bestseller, “The Happiness Project”, decided to spend a year trying to be happier. In fact, she subtitled her book “The Happiness Project, Or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun”. She wanted to know if a person could not only choose to be happy, but also happier than they were before.
She found in the research at that time, that a person’s level of happiness was influenced by various factors.
|Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Marital Status, Income,|
Health, Religious Affiliation
|10 to 20 percent|
|How you think and act||30 to 40 percent|
While you may be predisposed to be happier by your genetics or life circumstances, there is still a large percent that you do have control over. There is also help for those who have chemical imbalances in their brain and want to improve their mental health, talk to a therapist or your doctor about medication to help with the 50 percent that is genetic too.
“The Happiness Project” – Gretchen’s take on being happy
Gretchen Rubin has an interesting perspective on happiness. She determined through “The Happiness Project” that while her life experiences at that time might be happy, she wanted to prepare herself by using the act of self-discipline to look on the bright side for when life wasn’t as positive.
Gretchen saw her choice to be happy like a muscle that needed to be developed (the positivity muscle maybe?). By working on her ability to be positive, she reasoned she would be prepared with healthy mental habits when something bad happened in her life.
The is an easy choice we can all make. To choose our happiness and achieve an overall happy life by working on our own personal growth.
She focused on a different theme every month and tried to work on herself and that aspect of her life. She found at the end that she could be one of the happier people, and it is a great book to begin your happiness journey.
Is there a Link Between Gratitude and Happiness?
In the pursuit of your own happiness, nearly all the books discuss the positive experiences you can have when you learn to practice gratitude in your life. We all have much to be grateful for on any given day.
Gratitude can help you with so many aspects of your life. Especially when you learn how to be grateful for the little things in life. (See “25 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude” and/or “How to Have Gratitude for the Good and Bad in Life” for further reading).
Gratitude is one of the best tools at your disposal when it comes to making the choice for happiness. You can create a practice where you take some time each morning to think about all of the things in your life you are grateful for.
You can think about big things like having a supportive partner in life or healthy children, or smaller things like being able to have coffee with a friend or watch your favorite TV show in your free time. Gratitude helps put everything into perspective and reminds us of all of the wonderful blessings in our lives.
One thing that unhappy people tend to have in common is a tendency to “gloss” over or not focus on all of the things they have going right in their life and instead focus on all of the things that are going wrong in an given situation.
By focusing on the negative aspects of their life, they have a never ending source of unhappiness. Just as by focusing on the positive aspects, you can have a never ending source of happiness too. Yet another way, that happiness is a choice.
Being Mindful of Your Thoughts
Our thoughts have a powerful impact on our emotional well-being. Being mindful of what thoughts we give energy to can make all the difference when it comes to finding happiness each day.
When negative thoughts come up—and they will—try not to dwell on them. Instead, focus on positive thinking by reminding yourself of what’s good in your life and why you should be grateful for it. With practice this becomes easier until eventually it becomes second nature!
Join the 30 Day Happiness Challenge to Learn How to Be Happier
When you look at it that way, happiness really is a conscious choice you make by what you choose to focus your thoughts on. If the above is true, then 40% of your happiness is directly affected by how you think and how you choose to feel.
And that’s what this 30 day Happiness Challenge is all about. There will be 30 days of daily information with tips, advice, and strategies to help you make a conscious decision to be happier. Are you ready?
To make sure you receive access to our awesome 30 Day Happiness Challenge printable and get a little inspiration and motivation from us daily via email, sign up for the 30 Day Happiness Challenge here:
Do You Want to be Happier? Join the “30 Day Happiness Challenge”
If happiness is a choice, and a choice we make every single day, I want to challenge you to make it a habit. Over the coming days, my hope is to inspire and encourage you to make a choice each morning to be happier.
If you’ve read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, you know it takes time and daily conscious decisions to change habits and how we approach life. That’s where this challenge comes into play.
The challenge will provide you with a daily reminder here on the blog and via email each day to help you remember to make that choice. Of course there will also be plenty of helpful content on the topic of happiness in the form of a new daily article too.
With a little shift in your thinking, you can craft a happier life for yourself. If you are interested, join the challenge in the form above. In the meantime, here are some books to check out on happiness and choosing positivity. Enjoy!
Selected Books on Happiness
Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times Bestseller, “The Happiness Project”
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, “Positivity”
Rick Hanson, “How to Hardwire Your Brain for Happiness”
Dalai Lama “The Art of Happiness”
Quotes on Happiness
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be” – Abraham Lincoln
“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.” Ralph Marston
“Happiness is the purpose of life” – The Dalai Lama
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