Is Happiness Really A Choice?

Our days are filled with choices, but the most important one is our attitude. Sometimes we feel the choice to be happy is out of our control because we have a cancer diagnosis, are living through a pandemic, or our spouse left us. We’ll be happy if the circumstances are pleasant and enjoyable. This is conditional happiness, which is very different from unconditional happiness.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” When we choose unconditional happiness, we choose a deeper experience and a path that transcends circumstances. If we affirm that we want to be content and fully appreciate our lives, then we are released from being affected by the behavior of other people or situations beyond our control.

Michael A. Singer writes in his book The Untethered Soul, “The key to staying happy is really very simple. Begin by understanding your inner energies. If you look inside, you will see when you’re happy, your heart feels open and the energy rushes up inside of you. When you aren’t happy, your heart feels closed and no energy comes up inside. So, to stay happy, just don’t close your heart.” This doesn’t mean tough stuff won’t happen – it means that when it does we have a choice to either stay open or shut down. This doesn’t mean we never cry or mourn – it means we do so with our inner peace and our belief in the beauty of life intact. Conditional happiness stays on the surface, but unconditional happiness is deep and strong.

So happiness is a choice. Here are a few ideas for what we can do to keep happiness active and our hearts open. Because our attitude is so important, we need to give up our ideas about how life is supposed to be and accept it the way it is. Instead of focusing on how far we have to go, let’s acknowledge how far we’ve come. Let’s look at this moment as a priceless gift so we make every moment count. A positive attitude leads to positive experiences – even in the middle of a crisis.

People who stay open and choose happiness focus on specific reasons for gratitude. No matter what happens, there is always something to be grateful for. In a recent interview, comedian Carol Burnett recalled a conversation with her 38-year-old daughter Carrie, who was in the hospital dying of cancer. Each day Carrie began her day saying, “Every day I wake up and decide, today I am going to love my life.” She was keeping her heart open and choosing happiness while she focused on what she had that day.

When we use our energy for being our best, without comparing ourselves to anyone else, we choose happiness. The only comparison that makes sense is comparing who we used to be to who we are now. Then we’ll see we have something to celebrate. The energy our happiness produces enhances all our efforts. The goal isn’t to be better than anyone else – it’s to be our best self in any situation.

Smiling is contagious, and it makes us and everyone around us happier. When we smile a message is sent to our brain that we are feeling happy, and our body responds with a dose of feel-good endorphins. Spending time with positive people we admire, love, and respect boosts our choice for happiness. Life is too short to spend time with negative, complaining people who would like to suck the happiness right out of us. And for those times when we want to lash out with our own complaints, let’s take the high road so we diffuse an unhealthy situation. Happiness comes from choosing peace in the middle of drama.

Happiness is found when we choose to reach out to others and practice compassion. It happens when we know we have addressed a need and done something to make life easier for someone else. It happens when we take good care of ourselves. And it happens when we acknowledge that we all see life through our personal lens, and no two lenses are the same. Instead of forcing others to see through our lens, we can give the compassionate gift of holding a space for their view while we remain grounded. Allowing others to be themselves, without judgement, increases their happiness as well as ours.

Every time we look for the gift in our pain, we choose deep inner happiness. Through our pain we learn how to comfort ourselves and others, to persevere and be resilient, and to live with an inner core of peaceful contentment that circumstances can’t eliminate.

Marc Chernoff writes, “If you have the courage to admit when you’re scared; the ability to laugh even as you cry; the nerve to speak up, even if your voice is shaking; the confidence to ask for help when you need it; and the wisdom to take it when it’s offered, then you have everything you need to get yourself to a happier state of mind.” Even in the middle of difficult circumstances, we can, in the private sanctuary of our mind, choose to live with serenity, happiness, and an open heart. The choice is always ours. Let’s stay open and embrace happiness together. Until Next Time – Sylvia

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