Is Happiness a Choice?
Do you consider yourself a happy person? Can we simply choose to be happy? It may be a little more complicated than that – but it’s always worth it.
-Pamela Gail Johnson
When I founded the Secret Society of Happy People, in 1998, I intellectually knew a lot about happiness. However, I was probably a little naïve about its complexities. I wanted to believe that if you wanted to be happy, you could simply choose to be. I thought that if I were smart enough— and I definitely thought I was— being happy was an on-command emotion.
Time and experience have taught me that it’s much more complicated than that. Happiness and unhappiness usually happen in the same day. In fact, if we watch our Facebook or Twitter feeds most days, we can see posts that make us smile and fight tears within minutes of each other. While we may not feel both happiness and unhappiness at the same exact second, we can feel them concurrently of each other.
Many days, many of our unhappy experiences are mere annoyances. They are fleeting, like a dead car battery, not getting invited to lunch by our best friend at work or getting stuck with a last minute school project for the kids. Although the actual unhappy moment may create chaos, hurt feelings or extra must-do’s, they are ultimately fleeting and certainly something that we probably won’t remember a year from now.
So while we may not have a choice of being happy at a specific moment, we do have a choice about how long we hang onto our unhappiness over a specific situation. If we hang onto the unhappiness of a fleeting annoying situation for virtually no reason, all we’re doing is magnify our unhappiness because all we’re seeing is what’s wrong. A glass half empty attitude, if you will.
Having said the above, when we’re unhappy a bridge to happiness doesn’t magically appear. We need to find a catalyst so we can move beyond our annoyances. We may need to cry, work out, vent once and no more than twice to a friend or finish the annoying project. This helps us let go of the unhappy so we can have room for the happy. And sometimes the relief of letting go, finishing a project, or fixing the problem is…happiness.
If we just pretend we’re happy, and ignore the frustration, it eventually comes out sideways. We’ll yell at someone for no real reason or do something self-destructive like eating a whole cheesecake.
Our happiness is interconnected to the moment we’re in. For example, if we’re exhausted our reaction to an annoyance is different than if we’re rested.