How You Can Choose to Be Happy
“Happiness is a choice.” If you’ve ever listened to a self-help guru or optimistic person, you’ll have heard this statement. Many respond with, “Easy for you to say…you have ______. If I had that, I’d be happy, too,” or its opposite, “But you don’t have _______. If you had that, you wouldn’t be happy, either.” To many, happiness seems to be a matter of circumstances and people are simply happy or not based on those circumstances.
But that’s just not true—at least, not to the extent that pessimists are insinuating. There are, in fact, many ways to choose happiness. The question that most people have when they hear this, though, is “How?”—more precisely, “How can I choose happiness when [insert terrible situation here]?” Well, this post is going to be providing a list of exactly that: how to choose happiness. One note of warning: this might not be the list you want, but it’s definitely the list you need.
- You Choose Whether You Focus on Things That Make You Happy or Not – My favorite piece of “dad advice” is, “If you don’t like it, then stop doing it.” This is much more profound advice than it sounds because so many people continue to do things they don’t like for reasons that sound right to them but not to anyone else. Does the news depress you? Then stop watching it. “But I need to be informed!” Then choose to read only good news or get more objective reporting that’s less sensationalized. If you don’t like certain people, then you can avoid them. If you don’t like certain foods, then don’t order them. The fewer things that you let into your attention span, the fewer reasons you have to not be happy.
- You Choose to Spend Your Time Doing Things That Will Improve Your Life or Not – You can exercise or sit on the couch, eat healthy foods or unhealthy foods, and work on projects that will make your life better or activities that will hurt you in the long run. Your choices over time determine your destiny, so you can make choices that improve your life or derail it.
- You Choose Whether to Be Grateful or Miserable About Your Current Situation – A rainy day could be a bummer or an opportunity to play inside. A failure can be a setback or an opportunity to do it better next time. A home can be your fortress of solitude or that annoying thing that keeps having problems. It’s your choice how you view a situation, and your emotional state will be shaped by those chosen perceptions and beliefs.
- You Choose to Assume Positive or Negative Intent – When a bug gets into your house, you know it’s just looking for food and a safe place to live. You don’t assume it wants to make your life miserable. But when a person does something that affects you negatively, you often assume the worst. If you choose to believe that the world is out to get you, you will start to treat others rudely and, through self-fulfilling prophecy, get what you expect from people…making you less happy.
- You Choose to Have Positive Expectations – The future hasn’t happened yet. If you think it will get better, you will feel happiness, anticipation, excitement, and even relief. If you think it will get worse, you will feel dread. The reality is that the future hasn’t happened yet, so if you believe in a bad future then you are making yourself miserable without evidence. You are effectively being miserable for no real, tangible reason but instead for a future that may never come to pass.
- You Choose the People You Associate With (and Other External Factors) – If you don’t like certain people, you don’t have to associate with them. If you don’t like Earthquakes, you don’t have to live in California. You control a lot of your reality not through direct control but rather by making personal choices that make you more likely to experience what you want. So if you love the beach, you can live there or make plans to go a few times per year. If you love your family, you can do the same. You might not control everything in this moment, but your habits will lead to long-term impacts that you can’t possibly fathom today.
- You Choose to Be Happy, Anyway – While this is a combination (or the inverse) of all of the above, if all else fails then you can just choose to not let bad things get to you. The point of this choice is just to negate everything in your life with a deliberate choice to be glad to be alive and to have another day on this Earth than not. You can do this by focusing on the good and appreciating it…or you can just accept the fact that you don’t have to be alive and so every moment is a choice you make to live and make the most of what you have. It doesn’t matter what your life is like. You can just decide that you’re going to be happy, and it will lead you to appreciating things, focusing on good things, doing things that matter to you, and assuming that good things will happen.
So there you have it: a list of things you can do today to put happiness within your control instead of leaving it to forces outside of yourself. Choose to focus on things and people that make you happy, and you’ll be happier. Choose happiness, and you’ll focus more of your attention on the things and people that make you happy. It’s that simple. There’s a reason why depressed people stay in bed: to avoid everything. There’s a reason why happy people find other happy people and make other people happy: because that’s what they are attracted to, attract, and create.
Be happy. Choose happiness. Make your life one that makes you happy.