• Brittany Lashua

You CAN Choose Happiness


Hey best friend! Before we dive in, I just want to prepare you that this is going to be a little controversial. This topic could cause others to feel shame due to what is going on inside themselves. The thing that is so controversial is that YOU CAN CHOOSE HAPPINESS. Now you can read that and think “why is that controversial?” Well, it can be considered a hot button because some can read that and respond with “that's not fair not fair to say that someone dealing with depression can choose happiness and that even me saying you can choose happiness, well that is shaming in of itself.” While most people do not wake up and think to themselves “today, I am going to be depressed” just stick with me here. I promise this is about to get exciting!


What is happiness?


Research tells us that most people have the desire for happiness as one of their top goals in life. Honestly, between you and me that is not surprising. Who doesn’t want to be happy?!? But what is happiness? The word itself has a lot of definitions and the first one, which I definitely agree with, says that happiness is subjective. What I feel happy doing or the feeling of happiness for me may be very different from the happiness that you experience for what it is that makes you happy. Happiness is also correlated with well being; a lot of people say that it is wellbeing if you have true happiness. Some also say happiness is also fleeting and if you have lingering happiness is actually joy. Some would say happiness is more than just a mood or a transient emotion that comes and goes. Some people would say that we have happiness when we experience fulfillment. Some people would say that it is a long term process of meaning making. It’s interesting even as we are talking about this that we may be even confused on what happiness actually is, so stay with me because we’re going to define it even further. We are about to get a very clear understanding on what happiness is.


Research also suggests that just because we improve our life, doesn’t actually mean that we are more happy. I bet that you have probably known someone who makes a lot of money but they are not happy. I bet you know someone who has an amazing job but they are unhappy. I bet you know someone who is married to someone like who you would like to be married to, yet they are unhappy. Improving life circumstances does not always make us any happier. If this is true, which research says it is, then happiness is not a byproduct of life any more than depression or anxiety is a byproduct of my life.


Circumstances & Happiness


Best friend, I can remember going on a mission trip to Haiti only a few weeks after a devastating earthquake. I remember walking around, seeing everything in shambles yet the happiest of faces. The people there were walking around visibly happy in spite of everything that had been wiped away. Our circumstances do not dictate our happiness UNLESS we give them the power. Our circumstances do NOT have to dictate more negative feelings unless we give them the power to do so.


Sometimes the things that are the most painful in our life carry the most light. Have you ever had something awful, painful, or sad happen to you but you could still be happy? People are happy if they think they are happy. That is what research tells us. People are happy if they think they are happy. When I was 21, I was driving home from college for spring break to go on a trip to Vegas with my family. Unannounced to me, I had mono. It was 11:00 AM and I was driving home but fell asleep on my way home while my car was on cruise control. My car actually veered off into a field and that is what woke me up. I snapped awake and course corrected. Then, my car spun around 180 degrees twice putting me in the right direction. Turns out, I was actually propped up on the median. I remember looking around and thinking to myself “this did not go as planned”. Now, I want you to look at the evaluation I made - “welp, this was not in the plan”. People see what happened and are running over to make sure I was ok. My car was totaled but not because I crashed it. Well, that didn’t go as planned. I was alive. I chose at that moment that I was alive. I had practiced these thoughts my entire life.


Decisions


Research says that your evaluation of your life encompasses both cognitive judgments of satisfaction and the appraisal of your mood and emotions. Now less doctory, how you see your world, the meaning that you make of what is happening around you. and the satisfaction that you have and the meaning that you make of your mood and your emotions is what dictates whether you have happiness. You get to decide.


Now, I am not saying bad things don’t happen to us, but what I am saying is that we get to evaluate the meaning of the thing that happens to us. We get to make a judgment of it and then evaluate the mood and emotions associated with the thing. Friend, you have the ability to choose happiness. Does clinical depression exist? Yes. Does clinical anxiety exist? Yes. 100% these do exist. And the more we focus on how anxious or depressed we are, we begin to focus on the negative things in our life. Where your focus goes, your energy flows. If you focus on the negative, you will get more negative.


Predispositions & Gratitude


Being the nerd that I am, I recently worked with a DNA company. I wanted to know what I am sensitive to, what my body is doing, and what I am genetically predisposed to. I have a moderate predisposition to anxiety. My DNA says I need rest often as I do have a predisposition to burn out and feeling of frustration with ease. Now, if you know me you know that I do not walk around feeling frustrated. I have overridden my DNA by staying in a place of gratitude. If my DNA says that I should be a certain way and I have overridden it, I invite you my friend that just because you may have a predisposition to a certain thing does not mean you have to be that way. Read that again. Just because you may have a predisposition to a certain thing does not mean you have to be that way.


So what do we do about this? Well research tells us that we need solid social support. If you are a loner or an introvert, you still need and can find people. Who are your people? Your people need to be encouraging and supportive. If your friends are negative, you will probably stay in that place. My friends know that if they come to me, I am going to validate what they feel and then push them to do something about it. This is called redirecting. If you are struggling with people in your life and/or circumstances in your life, find things to be thankful for. Gratitude will help redirect your focus thus impacting your thoughts and feelings. This is not ignoring your negative feelings for good ones; it is acknowledging the negative feeling while choosing to sit in a positive one. If you want to change your life, start and end your day with gratitude.


Reflection


We all have words we have meaning attached to them. Some of us have words in our vocabulary that we need to remove. Some of us have emotions that we experience regularly associated with a meaning we have given them. If you have words that you use on a regular basis that invoke negative emotions, I want to challenge you to remove the word completely. Your body will react to the removal. Again, this is not about ignoring emotions but it is about shifting them. So, you CAN choose happiness. You can experience something negative and still come back and choose happiness. Ask yourself:


  1. What word(s) do you need to remove from your vocabulary?

  2. What is one thing you need to do to shift to happiness?


Happy friends are the best kind of friends to be around. This is not to say we won’t go through things and need a friend to lean on or be the friend that someone else leans on. But I will tell you that happy friends are the best to be around - not fake happy - real happy. I want you to be my friend and hang out with you on a regular basis. Choose happiness and see you next week!


References


Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2004). Are Scandinavians happier than Asians? Issues in comparing nations on subjective well-being. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Asian economic and political issues (pp. 1–25). Nova Science.


Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative & quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100, 185 – 207.


Freud, S., & Riviere, J. (1930). Civilization and its discontents. J Cape & H Smith.


Kesebir, P., & Diener, E. (2008). In pursuit of happiness: Empirical answers to philosophical questions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 117 – 125.


Norrish, J. M., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2008). Is the study of happiness a worthy scientific pursuit? Social Indicators Research, 87, 393 – 407.


Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the new Positive Psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Free Press.


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