Is happiness a choice? This question got more votes than anything I had ever asked on Instagram. I was shocked that 58 percent of you don’t think it is. It also sparked a lot of thoughtful conversation, and THAT actually made ME very happy. All of this sparked another question and vote which was, “do you know what makes you happy?” and thankfully, 74 percent of you answered that you did and it brought about more conversation.
One conversation that really stood out to me because it was a valid point, was based around the fact that happiness is NOT a choice given the circumstances that some people are faced with – homelessness, addiction, abuse or illness – and while I totally understand this thought, I still don’t agree and it’s not me being naïve. Have you ever seen a happy homeless person? I have. It may not be extremely common, but it does exist. Have you ever met someone who was terminally ill but smiled every day because they still could? I have.
My answer was, and still is, that happiness is a choice. I work at it every day. Sometimes multiple times a day, and some days it’s harder than others, but I choose it nonetheless. It certainly did not choose me.
I lost my son, Brandon, 11 years ago this weekend and of course the immediate reaction to any death, but especially your child’s, is anger, sadness and heartbreak. Happiness is definitely not a feeling you’re even considering. I remember not long after he passed, I went to a support group with my Dad and Brandon’s Dad and I was speechless. I had gone with the hope that I’d find relief amongst people that had experienced the same tragedy, but that was not the case. Everyone was SO angry and all of them were MUCH further along in the grieving process than me – or should have been – but it sadly it seemed as though a lot of them were stuck. I left that night and never looked back, but I was grateful I had gone because it was the night I decided I would be happy again someday, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I started to practice it – happiness. Spending time on the things that lit me up and the one thing that helped even more than that meeting was that I truly believe Brandon is watching me and he’d want me to be happy. I also feel a responsibility to live enough for both of us. Those two things became my mission – true happiness and to live.
Creating your own happiness comes with some tough choices and a lot of reflection and it has to be constant. I’ve had to make some tough decisions to stay happy. I left a very stable and well-paying job to chase a career in fitness because that job no longer made me smile and fitness did. I walked away from a marriage that didn’t fit me anymore. He was an amazing man, but we didn’t share the same goals any longer. I cut out people that were in my life for long periods of time, but just weren’t adding value. None of these things were easy to walk away from, but they didn’t light me up the way I needed them to anymore. This is part of the practice. This is a step in choosing happiness; it’s called choosing yourself above everyone and everything else.
Another step is letting go of expectations. All too often we apply unnecessary pressure on ourselves. While I think one of the best things in life is setting a goal and achieving it, we need to be better about accepting that we won’t ALWAYS crush it. That it is very possible our life won’t go as “planned” and that’s ok.
You won’t be happy EVERY waking moment of every day, even once you come to terms with the fact that happiness is a choice. There will be changes like I listed above where something once gave you all of the feels and one day it won’t. There will also be setbacks, maybe you lose a job, or someone breaks up with you. Maybe you lose a loved one. These things are inevitable and you need to feel them. Let them break you all the way open and then try and find the lesson in it. Life is going to happen and when it does how will you respond? Will you meet these moments with resistance, or will you take them for what they are? A passing moment.
My Dad will tell you happiness is too general a term. If you google the definition of happiness, it is defined as, “a state of being.” Others define it as luck or good fortune and the fact that all of these interpretations exist make me even happier because it supports my overall theory.
Happiness is, in fact, a choice. It is YOUR choice and you get to define the terms around it. You get to create what it looks like for you. Is it watching the sunrise? Supporting someone who needs it? Cooking? Reading? Exercising? Spending time with your family? Traveling? The more things the better, and my only advice to you is to get busy doing all of them. Brandon taught me a lot, but mostly that I don’t have a single moment to waste on a person, place or thing that doesn’t make me smile. Happiness is closer than you realize and always within your reach. You are in control.
So where do you start? Make a list and ask yourself these questions.
- What does my happiness look like?
- What and who makes me feel the happiest?
- Am I happy alone, and if not, why?
- What or who currently compromises my happiness?
- What expectations or self-defeating thoughts can I let go of?
“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.
- Michael J Fox
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
- Abraham Lincoln