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Is Happiness a Choice?

Updated on March 24, 2012

Happiness... We all seem to want it, need it, look for it, struggle to keep it. Some people seem innately happy, able to go about their lives with joy and a smile on their faces, getting through the tough spots with ease. Others seem to be constantly down, like they never have and never will feel a sense of happiness in their lives. Most of us, I expect, are somewhere in the middle- we have our moments of happiness or even contentment, but often those feelings seem fleeting, or will elude us if we try too hard to hang on.

So, can we actually choose to be happy? Do our thoughts control how we feel? Or do we really have no control, and happiness comes and goes according to some cosmic predetermination?

Gretchen Rubin, founder of The Happiness Project, feels that happiness seems to be "too big" an idea, and she prefers to break it down into smaller choices. Each day, we can choose a smile as the first thing our family sees. We can choose to meditate, exercise, or eat something healthy in order to start our bodies off right. We can choose to allow another person to go ahead of us in a line, or pick up something someone has dropped unknowingly. There are thousands of choices we can make each day that will lead us in the direction of happiness. In essence, happiness is all about our reaction to things, our judgement, how we handle stuff.

Or is it? Some would say that this practice of being happy causes us to feel happy. Others say the opposite, that you have to feel happy before you can show that happiness. It's a bit like the question of depression- do depressed people actually choose to be UNhappy? In my opinion, that's not the case. Many people in the grips of depression can barely make the choice to survive. I can't imagine we would want to live a life in the doldrums- sometimes we just can't shake it, no matter how hard we try.

And in the debate over the choice for happiness, what does the role of faith play? Of family? Of friends? Of fun? If we have a strong faith, are we more likely to be happy because we have a positive outlook on life? If our families and friends are strong and supportive, does that make us happier? What if we have a great job or hobbies that bring us joy- is it easier to be happy because of that?

I'm not sure we'll ever answer the question for everyone, but I am sure that we can each answer the question for ourselves, with a little thought and awareness.

This brings to mind the essay by Robert J. Hastings, called "The Station." Please read it here, and don't wait for the station in your life:

Happiness to you!


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