Is happiness really a choice? Why is it challenging for some people to achieve happiness? It takes work to understand what’s going on inside of us—work that not everyone has the energy for. Medical studies show that unhappiness affects our memory, learning and longevity. It is so strongly to our benefit to learn the tools that make our mind and body healthy. The hardest step to a better quality life is making the decision to have one. Sometimes we get used to the feelings of sadness in such a way that it becomes a comfortable and familiar place to fall back on. Making the choice to be happy is really the first step in the entire process of living a more fulfilled life. By deciding that we want to be happy and are willing to do what it takes, we are ready to work on eliminating external blame to justify our behaviors. Being responsible for our own lives means that we can control the life we have. Though getting to that place may be more difficult to some than others, it can be a worthwhile commitment so that we may enjoy our time here on earth. Our motivation comes when we genuinely believe that happiness is a decision we can all make at any time.
No matter where you go in this world, there are going to be “negative” situations. The world cannot always be a positive place – hurricanes come and people get sick, people lose their jobs and find themselves begging for money on the subway. How does one choose happiness at that point? Dr. Tom G. Stevens says in his book You Can Choose to Be Happy: Rise Above Anxiety, Anger, and Depression that people are happiest when placing priority on truth and self-development. This means choosing environments that help you grow and preferring friends who add to your well-being. It also means chasing the things we love and not pretending to like a certain book or hobby just because others do. He writes, “I realized that I was definitely not happy when I was feeling angry. For the first time in my life, I realized that my anger was hurting me more than it was hurting the person I was angry at… So I just decided to become happier. I began to focus on the trees, stars and beauty of the night…I was quite happy.” Learning self-control can be challenging, but by focusing our minds on positive thoughts we are alleviating our toxic feelings. So for example, instead of dwelling on the fact that one is a victim of a hurricane, funneling that energy into relief efforts may help one feel better about the situation. We may feel good about ourselves that we took action to change a disrupted environment, rather than engaging in self-pity.
Getting out of the victim mentality takes a lot of strength, but doing so helps us fuel our time and effort into actions that foster feelings of happiness. Dr. Stevens stresses that we are changing our feelings and not denying them. He is another psychologist who advocates the importance of accepting negative emotions. We can only change our feelings once we get to the root of why they’re there, he says. When we understand ourselves better and why we react to things the way we do, we can learn to change our behavior patterns so that we act, think and feel more positively in any situation. Dr. Stevens reminds us that an “important underlying cause of hopelessness, powerlessness, and depression is a belief that we cannot find any possible route to happiness” and encourages others to “challenge that ‘no choice’ belief.” He adds that believing we have the choice to be happy instills us with hope, and “hope will allow you to start looking for new, creative routes to happiness that you may have previously overlooked.”
It is very feasible to create both an external environment and internal environment that appeals to one’s values. Associating with positive people, for example, or practicing forgiveness and empathy can help facilitate our decision to be happier. If we learn to deal with life’s challenges in a proactive and positive way, we are giving ourselves the chance to live a life of happiness and fulfillment. There are many resources out there that can be a great first step towards living a happier life. If you’re interested in taking a class, Phil Drolet, creator of The Feel Good Lifestyle, teaches a life-changing online course called The Superhuman Blueprint. Here you will learn ways to unlock your fullest potential and live a healthier, happier life. Meeting others who are going through a similar phase in life is a great benefit of this class, as supporting one another helps aid in the motivation to live more efficiently and positively. Additionally, the entheos Academy is a wonderful resource that offers classes on optimal living. Happiness certainly can be achieved; it’s all up to the individual to take that first step and make it happen.
Photography by Eliza Cypers