“Happiness is a choice, my friend. You just have to make it!”
How many times have you heard this and sighed? If you have, then don’t worry. You are not alone. There are plenty of people out there who have been told that happiness is a choice and they just couldn’t relate to it. Because in all honesty, happiness is not a choice for everyone.
It wasn’t for me either. I understand how it feels when so many people and so many articles out there decide that happiness is a choice for everyone when it clearly isn’t. This is why I have decided to share my experiences with you, as well as some scientific research that states that happiness is not based on choices alone.
- Why happiness is not always a choice
- Research on happiness and biology
- Tips on choosing a happy life
- Closing words
What is happiness exactly? What is there to learn about happiness? This article is a part of the most in-depth guide on how to be happy, which answers these questions in the first section: What Is Happiness?
Why happiness is not always a choice
Dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin are the chemicals that trigger our happy feelings. Because different people have different levels of these chemicals in their bodies, they tend to feel happiness in different ways and levels as well.
So even though you may want to choose to be happy, it might not be possible for you due to the lack of the right neurotransmitters.
This is especially true for people suffering from depression, diseases, or past traumas.
Research on happiness and biology
There are a couple of papers that prove that happiness is not just a choice, but also linked to our biology and genetics. As we all know, these are things that we cannot simply change at our liking.
Research of identical twins and happiness factors
Research published in 2013 by Despina Archontaki, Gary J. Lewis, and Timothy C. Bates discovered that several components of happiness are significantly impacted by various genetic influences.
The study was based on more than 800 pairs of adult fraternal and identical twins to explore the way an individual’s well-being is affected by his or her genetic formation and environment.
This was done by measuring their happiness according to 6 factors:
- Personal growth
- Positive relationships
- Feelings of autonomy
- The pursuit of goals
- A sense of control.
The outcome indicated that different genetics tend to play a significant role in each of the 6 happiness components. This means that there is no single genetic path or characteristic that leads to happiness. Well-being depends on different parts influenced by various aspects of our biology.
Timothy Bates, one of the researches of the study, summarizes it quite nicely:
“Our paper says that a big part of thriving involves accepting yourself as you are, imperfect but responsible and capable to do better, working towards goals, getting along with others.”
Research on DNA studies and happiness
In another research of twin and DNA studies by VU professors Meike Bartels and Philipp Koellinger, the role of genes in well-being was explored. The study suggested that people are different and an important part of these differences is due to genes.
Without considering the interplay of genes with the environment, around 40 percent of the difference in people’s well-being is accounted for by genes and the remaining 60 percent by the environmental factors. This is why some people can feel happier compared to others even when they are in similar circumstances.
Studies like these can help us realize that happiness doesn’t have a universal definition.
Different people find happiness in different ways and at different times. This can aid in the understanding of what can help us to improve our well-being instead of following a predetermined set of methods that might be able to help some but not others.
So there’s no golden secret or rule that can bring you happiness. The best way to enhance your lifestyle and well-being is to start getting to know yourself better and follow a few tips I have tried out myself.
Tips on choosing a happy life
Now that you know that happiness is not always a choice, should you stop trying to be happy? Not at all. Instead of trying to choose to be happy, we should focus on how to improve our lives and ourselves.
1. Accept that negativity is a part of life
If you feel tired, hopeless, and powerless because of the negative things happening around you, then understand that this is normal human behavior. Do not run away from this.
The more you avoid facing the negativity in your life, the longer your mood and health will tend to suffer. Face the reality and tell yourself that you can overcome this. Find solutions to the problems and if you can’t, keep trying.
Do not let the problems overwhelm you. Do not give up and do not be hard on yourself or others. Realize that life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect and the best you can do is focus on the good things happening in your life.
2. Connect with positive people
If you want to be happier, why not reach out to people who actually make you happy? Connect with them regularly. Tell them what’s bothering you. Surround yourself with these people.
While not everyone might be able to help you, a few might lift your mood. Try not to withdraw and isolate yourself and move towards connecting with people and building meaningful relationships – be it old or new.
Try to be a good friend to others and you’ll quickly improve your relationships.
A unique way to get in touch with more positive people is to start volunteering. Being supported by others might feel good, but helping others can feel even better. It’s been proven that volunteering can increase your own happiness as well, and it comes with many more benefits!
3. Make positive changes to your life
It’s easier said than done, but if you want to be happier, you have to start making positive changes in your life. The good news is that these changes don’t always have to be big. You can change one small thing at a time, step by step. What matters is that you maintain the change and embrace it. Turn that positive change in a habit!
Here are a few small but powerful positive changes that helped me when I was feeling unhappy:
Get enough exercise
Daily exercise is proven to be a strong way to fight depression and hopelessness. It is also correlated to overall happiness! You don’t have to pump iron if you’d rather dance. For maximum happiness, choose the type of exercise that you actually like.
There are so many different workouts to choose from – from dancing to duathlons, running to rugby, basketball to boxing, you should be able to find something that works for you.
Enjoy the sun more
This might sound too simple to be true, but getting your daily dose of sunlight can help you become healthier and happier.
It can boost up your serotonin and thus enhance your mood. So have your morning coffee near your window or balcony, or take a walk in your garden or the park. You can even combine the previous tip and exercise in the sunlight to lift your mood up even more!
Prioritize your sleep
Most of us tend to take our sleep very lightly. However, having the right amount of sleep at the right time is very important for both your physical and mental health.
Try to sleep at least 8 hours a day every day. The less you sleep, the more stressed you tend to become. Too much sleep can hamper your mood and well-being as well. So get a sleep schedule that works for you – not too much, not too little.
Even though happiness is not always a choice, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your life. Learning how to deal with negativity, connecting with people on a regular basis, volunteering and improving your habits can all help you become a happier person. Happiness might not always be a choice, but loving yourself and improving your life can be.