Happiness Is A Choice
Of course. it is we knew that, but there is more. Sometimes when we are so used to being anything but happy the choice to be happy is just one more thing to do. It really shouldn’t be though, so what we want is to not be focused on trying to be happy. There is also more than 1 kind of happiness so let us start there.
Happiness is different for everybody but when you talk about the types of happiness there are only 2 types external & internal.
When we feel happiness externally that is usually in response to an event or circumstance. An example would be our reaction to winning a jackpot, lottery even a cakewalk would fit the bill.
Then there is happiness that is cultivated internally. This kind of happiness is the energy that arises as a conscious choice rather than the spur-of-the-moment reaction to a piece of good news.
We will be discussing internal happiness in this article and how you do have a choice, whether you know that or not matters very little but if you didn’t know that you had/have a choice then you may have felt it was or is hopeless, just know that it is not hopeless.
How To Be Happy – And How Things Are
Being of this planet we all struggle and strive to attain health, prosperity, and personal happiness. Even if we have nothing monetarily we seek to be healthy, be able to feed and clothe ourselves and have a sense of personal happiness in our relations to others.
Yet these three areas: health, prosperity, and relationships are internal areas that require our conscious energy, unconditional love, and compassion, gratefulness but what happens is instead we try dealing with them externally which becomes in response to the situation. We become rigid in seeking balance which does not work.
It is important to see your journey, your path but if it includes others then you will do better in all those areas by just seeking balance from within. In doing so you no longer are reacting but instead you are involved in those internal areas that is where you need to be.
You and those around you will feel the difference because it is all about feeling and it is about emotions and it is about being involved in the very thing you truly desire.
I hope that makes sense to you, if it does then you have grown right here and now and that is a blessing in itself.
Life is full of beauty and miracles and it is important to recognize these as they come your way because being able to see the beauty of something is external but that feeling you get inside from saying the beauty you see when you look at that person you love and it puts butterflies in the stomach is the internal happiness.
It is as if you are seeing everything for the first time every time. That is joy you are seeking to attain it is far better than trying to be happy and they both are your choice.
In his book “Being Peace”, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
“… life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.”
Zen teacher Alan Senauke offers the following advice for keeping your Joyful Mind when fear and suffering threaten it:
“Joy is an active principle, not a swamp of passivity. No one can steal it… We have choices even though they are often hard to see.”
How To Be Happy – Choose To Be Happy
In the bible (Philippians 4:4 NKJV), the psalmist writes:
“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”. He doesn’t say “yesterday was a good day so let’s give thanks for that” or “tomorrow will be a good day so I’ll scrape through today and hang on for tomorrow”
He says today… now… this present moment… we choose to give thanks for this day.
The apostle Paul was frequently imprisoned and on one occasion when he was incarcerated with no prospect of release he wrote:
“Rejoice in the Lord always… always be joyful… “
His joy was grounded in his focus and was not a reflection of his circumstances.
Happiness is a choice and it comes to those who look beyond themselves to something greater than their own immediate personal happiness based on their circumstances.
When we are unhappy we tend to complain about our current experiences and what I want or don’t want. Our concerns our self-serving and lack the internal thought that needs to be applied if we want a result that is balanced.
How To Be Happy – A View From The End
John Leland, the award-winning journalist from “The New York Times” spent time with a number of older people with the initial expectation of learning about how they cope with the effects of aging in terms of physical and mental health and overall quality of life.
However what he found was quite extraordinary, despite their circumstances these people lived positive and joyful lives. He captured and expressed his experiences in Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old:
“Older people consistently reported just as many positive emotions as the younger participants but had fewer negative ones. They also had more mixed emotions, meaning that they didn’t let frustration or anxiety keep them from saying they were happy.
Consciously or unconsciously, they were making the choice to be happy even when there were reasons to feel otherwise…
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, the researchers found that the emotional processing center of older people’s brains, the amygdala, fired more actively when they looked at positive images than negative ones; younger brains reacted to both equally.
In this, older brains resemble the brains of people who meditate.”
Leland offers a compelling explanation from the psychologist Laura L. Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity:
“Her hypothesis, which she gave the wonky name ‘socioemotional selectivity,’ is that older people, knowing they face a limited time in front of them, focus their energies on things that give them pleasure in the moment, whereas young people, with long horizons, seek out new experiences or knowledge that may or may not pay off down the line.
Our default position is that we’d be “happy if only” every bad thing went away. Whereas, the older people accepted that there are always challenges in life and they choose to be “happy in spite of.”
How To Be Happy – The Cognitive Approach
In “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William
B. Irvine explains the “What is it?” of Stoic philosophy and how it is relevant to today.
In summary, here are 3 key takeaways of Stoic philosophy:
1. “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?” – This is what the Stoics refer to as “the premeditation” – which means that there’s a lot of value in thinking about the situation and the worst that could happen.
In most situations, your thought process will show that your anxiety about those situations are out of proportion or exaggerated And that is the point here, to explain to you that your thought process has a tendency to create anxiety about many situations and they are exaggerated. You know who you are if this is your thought process.
2. “Fake It To Make It” – Irvine refers to Seneca, who says that when we are angry we should take steps to “turn all (anger’s) indications into their opposites.”
“We should force ourselves to relax our face, soften our voice, and slow our pace of walking. If we do this, our internal state will soon come to resemble our external state, and our anger,” says Seneca, “will have dissipated”.
This is a reference you hear time and time again and it does work, but only for so long, you will need to deal with that situation soon enough but by dissipating your anger you will be more likely to see a better path for the resolve.
Anger is never the right path, it stems from a fear of something and reactions become only self-serving.
3. “Make It A Treat” – The Stoics were all about denying yourself in order to make you appreciate what you would have taken for granted. They regularly practiced exercises in self-denial over long periods of time.
I do agree with making it a treat but practicing denial regularly and for long periods of time seems more like punishment and may put a higher value on something that isn’t really a part of your happiness but more of an imposed condition you created.
The best and most powerful key to your happiness and making it last is by far the simplest. Be grateful!
The practice of gratitude really does make us happy. That is just the tip of the iceberg because not only does gratitude help us achieve happiness the research and there is a lot of research that shows the many physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that benefit us from this practice.
The simplest of methods on how to be happy is being grateful and for that to happen all that is needed is a change in perspective. You can feel it right now if you choose to.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen
As I always say knowledge is key and every bit you can take in on keeping your happiness forefront is going to benefit you. So you might be thinking all this happiness planning is not what happiness is about but it really is because happiness is that which we attain and that is actionable.
It is the thinking about it that will soon not be so prevalent that is the difference at the moment from seeking happiness and your understanding that what you do daily keeps that happiness alive.
Hope you enjoyed this as I always enjoy sharing what I feel is valuable, helpful, and a good read when it comes to happiness. So get out your gratitude notebook and start writing your happiness into existence today.