Happiness Is An Option – Choose It

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be.Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m goingto be happy in it.  – Groucho Marx

If we’re so smart, why aren’t we happy? For one thing, a lot of us don’t really believe it’s possible. The secret is (drum roll please) – happiness is a choice, just as unhappiness is a choice.

Many of us accept the fact that unhappiness is a natural state for us. We accept it, and fight bravely to survive in spite of it. We have trained ourselves to be unhappy through thousands of negative responses. We can train ourselves to be happy by choosing, time after time, the response that will give us happiness.

You don’t believe me? You probably have lots of reasons not to. You may have faced external circumstances that challenged you and even threatened your survival. You may have internal demons that challenge your relationships, career, friendships, or your own peace of mind. You may be full of confusion and doubts that you can’t see your way to being happy.

In the past we responded with anger, impatience, jealousy, and fear, but each time we chose peace, acceptance, forgiveness, and love. We are telling ourselves that this is an option. Remember the old question, “which would you rather be, happy or right”?  Well, this choice comes down to would you rather dwell on being right or be unhappy?  Would you rather dwell on having a response that makes you happy? Right is subjective. It doesn’t make you wrong or weak to choose being happy, it makes you smart.

One thing we can agree on is that we all want to be happy, right? You might think so, but studies of people in every stage of life have shown that we virtually never put happiness first. It is always a by-product of something else and never the main event.

When you look at the below breakdown, you might agree that it sounds fairly accurate:

Question to the group – “what will make you happy?”

  • Elementary school children in the third grade, listed such things as trips to the amusement park, dolls that talk, new bikes, no more homework and video games.
  • High school students wanted to be popular, to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, to excel in sports, to get a driver’s license, have nice clothes and get into a good college.
  • The mid-20s group wanted a meaningful relationship, a better job, more money and a good apartment
  • The mid-40s group wanted better relationships with their spouses, more respectful children, better job opportunities, financial security, less stress and more personal time.
  • The mid-60s group wanted good health, security, respect from others, status in the community and once a while they mentioned peace, or even happiness

Never was the word “happiness” mentioned except occasionally in the 60’s group.  When a person was asked why they wanted a bicycle or a driver’s license or a better job, they always said it was because that would make them happy. They believed that happiness would be the end result of obtaining all these things, but they never stated it correctly. The result of that is there that they’re putting off their happiness until they have the things they think will give it to them. The solution is choose to be happy now while they are working for, whatever it is they desire.

In many cases, happiness is as easy as the realization of it. What’s standing in the way of happiness is all the negative self-talk and training that brought us to a point where we thought we had to have something (whatever that thing is) in order to be happy. In many cases it is just as easy as flipping a switch. The solution, then, is as simple as making the decision to be happy now.

Don’t Live In The Past Or The Future

Remember the statement, “All fear is fear of loss”? Closely connected with that idea is the idea that unhappiness exists when we think about or regret something in the past or when we worry about something in the future. When we live in the present moment completely, we don’t experience unhappiness.

Have you ever known someone who wanted something so much, but was afraid she wouldn’t get it, (for instance a woman who wants to get married or have a baby) that she can’t be happy in the present moment? Or have you ever known someone who is so unhappy because of an event in the past  (for instance loss of spouse or divorce) that he can’t be happy in the present moment? I think we all have. But this is a choice those people make, knowingly or unknowingly. If they choose let go of that memory or that fear in the present moment, they could begin to be happy. It doesn’t mean giving up on their dreams or ignoring the memory of their loved ones, it means choosing happiness now.

Maybe, like those people, you’re concentrating on something in the past or something you are afraid you won’t get in the future to the extent that you can’t enjoy today.

The difference between people who live unhappy lives and those who go on to thrive is not what happened or didn’t happen to them, but how they reacted to it.

Living in the present will increase your happiness for another, obvious reason. When you increase your attention on something, you increase your ability to enjoy it. Make a conscious decision to be present in each moment. It increases your power and effectiveness and deepens your experience.

Letting go of the past and the future and fully enjoying the present will increase your happiness.

The surprising thing about judging is that the more judgmental we are about others, the more judgmental we are about ourselves. The real reason to let things go is that we ourselves will benefit from it.

Let it Go

In an earlier post I stated that I had purchased many programs from Nightingale Conant. One of the programs was called the Sedona Method. I did not listen to more than two tapes because the program (as I remember it) was about releasing all things negative –  which is good. The thing about the tapes (that I recall) I did not like is that you were asked to remember the negative “thing” and then asked to let it go and the tape was silent for an extended period of time except for the occasional “let it go” and then silence again. While I thought (I was in my 20’s) this a little silly listening to so much dead space on the tape I did correctly get the jist of why you should let these negative feelings go.

Judgment is all around us all the time. We learned it as children. We heard from parents, friends, religious leaders, and the media. So, we began to do it ourselves at an early age. Result of all that judging is that we have a lot of opinions; many of them may easily be based on bias that we have learned in the past but may not be valid today.

Our habit of judging is exhausting since, now more than ever, we are bombarded by the media with more things to judge. Furthermore, media concentration on negative events, leave us stressed and anxious.

Another aspect of judgment is forgiveness. People have a problem with forgiveness because they feel that if they forgive someone who did something wrong, they’re letting that person off the hook. So, a way to look at that is to concentrate on what it is doing for you, not what it is doing for the other person. When you let something go you are freeing yourself from the burden of resentment that you have been carrying around with you. You have become a more compassionate person. The great benefit is not in your compassion for the person who wronged you, but in compassion you are showing for yourself.

By becoming less judgmental, you free yourself. It’s not an easy concept to understand or to practice, but it works.

Take a look at all the people and things you’re judging. Are you judgments valid? One question to ask yourself in each case: “is this hurting me or helping me?” If it’s not helping you, you should try to drop it. Does that sound simplistic? It’s really not. We’re talking about happiness, so the bottom line is to let go of whatever is hurting you. It never had any value. The more negative judgments you can release, the greater your happiness and freedom will be.

Are you thinking by now that happiness sounds like it’s a lot of work? I agree. But isn’t being miserable a lot of work, also? Not many things are more exhausting than depression. Or disappointment. Or all the other negative things that we feel through our negative self talk, negative attitude, and negative reactions.

If you’re skeptical about how well this approach to consciously seeking happiness will work for you, why not give it a try? If it’s was too much trouble, your misery will be waiting for you to reclaim it.

I wish you great happiness.

For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. – Ralph Waldo Emerson