If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it really frustrating when someone says: “just choose to be happy”.
Some people think that happiness is 100% a function of your own mindset. That’s not true. It’s not like you can stand in front of a mirror and repeat “I’m happy” thirty-five times and then POOF: you’re happy.
It doesn’t work like that. The biggest chunk of our happiness is out of our control.
But still, more often than not, happiness comes from within ourselves. This section is about the part of our happiness that is determined by our own outlook, or our own choices.
Recognize when you CAN choose to be happy!
You are in a hurry after a long day at work. You need to get back home as soon as possible because you need to do groceries, cook dinner and head out to meet your friends.
But traffic is extremely busy so you end up stuck in front of a red light.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced a situation like this before. It might sound silly, but this is a very clear example of how happiness can be a choice. Let me explain.
There are a couple of things you can do here:
- You can be mad at this #*#@%^@ traffic light and be pissed off. This traffic light is ruining your plans!
- You can accept the fact that this traffic light is the way it is and decide to not let it influence your happiness.
It’s probably the easiest for you to go with option 1. It’s the path of the least resistance, as you’ll be placing the blame on something else. You’re the victim here, right?! This traffic light is ruining your planning, and as a result, you’re going to be late for your friends and that will only further ruin your night.
Sounds familiar? It’s okay. We’ve all been there. As you may already know, your mental outlook on this situation is something that you can control.
Our happiness is influenced by an endless list of factors. Some of these factors are controllable (like hobbies, your work, or your fitness). However, most of these factors are out of our control. They are external happiness factors that we don’t get to influence. The busy traffic is a perfect example of an external factor.
We cannot control the traffic. But we can control how we react to it. And that’s why it’s a perfect example of how happiness can be a choice. We get to choose how we react to events, and by choosing a happy outlook, we can vastly improve our happiness when dealing with these situations.
So instead of becoming frustrated by this busy traffic, why don’t you try to focus on things that actually make you happy?
- Put on some good music and just sing along.
- Give your friends a call and talk about your plans for the evening.
- Send a nice message to someone you love.
- Just close your eyes and take a deep breath. Allow your mind to rest easy, instead of being focused on the busy traffic around you.
If you do any of these things, you’re effectively influencing the part of your happiness that you can control. While that might not sound like a big deal, it can make a world of difference on your mental health.
If you are aware of these opportunities – where you get to decide how you react to external factors – that’s when you can actively make happiness a choice.
Realize that you deserve to be happy!
Some people feel like they don’t deserve a “happy ever after”.
Instead, they’ll settle for a “can’t complain” kind of life and think, “I’m not happy, but I’m okay. That’s fine, right?” Feeling undeserving – or even guilty – can get in the way of living your best life.
You need to get rid of these deconstructive feelings. Why? Because the world would simply be a better place if you’d be the happiest version of yourself.
Need more convincing? Research has shown that happy people are healthier and more productive, achieving more. If you don’t believe that you deserve happiness, then think of it this way: a happier you can be more helpful to others and give back more to the community.
You deserve to be happy because your happiness will help others.
Develop your self-awareness!
In a world that is full of external factors which we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves. Self-awareness is something you might have heard a couple of times, and rightfully so. You see, despite the extremely dynamic world we live in nowadays, there is still a lot that we actually can control. What we can control is how we deal with these external factors.
Why is self-awareness so important? It allows us to improve the quality of our lives just by being aware of how external factors influence us. We can’t control 100% of our lives, but we can often control how we react to the stuff we can’t control. That is the key to self-awareness and why it is so important.
Someone who is not self-aware encounters obstacles, sometimes the same ones repeatedly, and doesn’t understand why. Someone who is self-aware examines themselves honestly to get to the root of their problems. Maybe people don’t like to talk to you. A person that isn’t self-aware would just get frustrated or accept it, or maybe not even notice people are annoyed by them. A self-aware person examines their reality, maybe admits they ramble too much, don’t listen enough, aren’t engaging or being present.
The difference between these people is that one has the ability to diagnose the underlying issue. And with that comes the power to fix the true cause of the issue.
Focus on your self-esteem and don’t give a sh*t about stuff that doesn’t matter anyway
I think we’ve all heard the following quote in some form or shape:
Love yourself first
What does this mean? It means that we have to accept ourselves for who we are before we can expect to truly be happy with ourselves.
Self-esteem and confidence are fundamental factors of happiness. It’s impossible to not encounter obstacles in our lives at all. Everybody encounters sadness every once in a while. We need to be able to deal with this as confidently as we can.
For example, since we’re constantly bombarded with messed up social media posts and click-bait marketing, it’s important to not let these stupid things influence our lives. We need to be confident while dealing with bullshit that we may or may not be able to control anyway.
Research has shown that self-esteem can definitely be trained. Different forms of therapy, like art therapy, solution-focused brief therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy have been found to be successful in raising self-esteem in different age groups. But what if you favor a more DIY approach? Things that you can try without having to make an appointment or spending a lot of money. Can you still train your self-esteem without the help of a professional?
The answer is a resounding yes! (As long as you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort, of course.)
Embrace a positive mindset
Some people find it really frustrating when they hear: “just choose to be a little more positive!” A lot of people think that positivity is 100% a function of your own mindset. They think that we have the ability to choose to be positive from the inside anytime we want.
That’s not true. If you found out your partner was killed in a highway crash right now, would you be able to achieve a positive mindset at the snap of a finger? Of course not!
That said, people aren’t born a pessimist.
We all know that one person who always seems to have a positive mindset? That person who always reacts with bright humor, optimism, and a positive mental attitude? You can be that person.
If you embrace positivity instead of negativity, you can learn how to better influence the part of your happiness that’s actually within your control.
Don’t allow yourself to be bothered by minor inconveniences
if you’re a pessimist, you will often allow yourself to be bothered by things that shouldn’t really bother you. Here’s a quote I always love to think of:
A pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill
A pessimist will focus on the negative aspect of things, which results in a higher likelihood of being bothered by stuff. Don’t believe me? This was actually studied in the Journal of Research in Personality. The study found that pessimism and stress are highly correlated with each other.
Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 6 years.