Happiness is a Choice

By October 23, 2013Featured

It can be incredibly easy to base our happiness on outside circumstances. In fact, we’re often taught in our society and in relationships that happiness is determined by how someone else acts or treats you. How often have you heard the line in a romantic comedy, “I want to make you happy for the rest of our lives”?

While this is a nice sentiment, and we want our partners and those we love to be happy, I’ve learned that happiness is up to us, and it’s also a choice in every moment. 

After my recent 3-week European extravaganza trip (7 countries), I returned to the States and found myself getting caught up in the minutia of life. I would receive an email with positive news, and I was happy. Someone would cut me off in traffic, and then I was angry. I would put on my jeans and feel thin or fat, and my mood changed.

For 2 weeks I was intensely riding life’s wave, and quite honestly, I was starting to get sea sick.

Highlights from Scotland!

Highlights from Scotland!

And then it dawned on me while driving back from a wedding in Kentucky: “Whoah. I have a choice in all this, and I decide in this moment that I’m going to be happy despite outside circumstances.” My Grandmother modeled this for our family. She had plenty she could’ve been miserable and bitter about–a husband dying at 60, leaving her with 2 children to raise at home, debt, and being unable to drive a car for starters, but she chose to move forward and have faith that everything would work out.

This isn’t to say that she never worried or that it doesn’t take incredible strength, courage, and discipline to focus on the positive, especially in the midst of a you-know-what storm. And it’s also very important to honor feelings that come up because only in truly experiencing and feeling our fear, sadness, or anger can we let it go. Choosing happiness is about honoring the emotions of the moment, breathing through them, and choosing what best serves you and your soul. Hours make up days, years, and ultimately a lifetime, and it’s up to us if those hours are happy ones or miserable ones.

A few days later, I found myself stuck on a subway car underground in New York on my way to teach a class. I typically arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time when I teach, so the delay had the opportunity to stress me out. What’s more, several New Yorkers were not happy about the train being held up due to traffic in front of us, and let’s just say, there were several expletives flying around–loudly.

The sun is always there!

The sun is always there!

Instead of allowing myself to get caught up in fear, stress, and anger, I decided to relax  and choose calm. I even made a new friend beside me in the subway, and we had a pleasant chat for the 20 minutes we were stuck. When does that ever happen? I made it to the class 13 minutes early instead of my usual 30, and everything went swimmingly.

Most of you know I’m really into Life Experiments. I think they’re often much easier than taking on significant life changes, so who would like to do a 21-day experiment (the amount of time it takes to make/break a habit) of choosing happiness with me? I would also love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the idea of choosing happiness and what is one way you integrate happiness into your every day life?


A post I wrote when I returned from China on my much older blog, PeachinChina:

A Taoist Observation

The more I move around the world I find that time and space play tricks on our concepts of reality. In layman’s terms, I can’t believe that yesterday marked 2 months back in the States.8 weeks ago my primary language was not English. I lived in a city of 8 million. I was a minority. Americans accounted for less than 5% of the people I interacted with on a regular basis. I now live and work on a 10,000 acre ranch outside of Missoula, Montana that’s only accessible by several twists and turns down a 6 mile dirt road. Population: less than 100. All American. All English. In China I couldn’t go more than 5 minutes without seeing another person, car, or bike. I see more deer, horses, and squirrels here than I do people. I’ve traded chopsticks and bowls of rice for forks and bowls of oatmeal. Circular tables for rectangular ones. Shared food in the center of the table for buffet style with individual plates. Squatters for seaters. Grey skies for blue. The only thing that is the same is that I can see mountains from my window and bike to water in under 30 minutes.Am I the butterfly dreaming of Zhuangzi or Zhuangzi dreaming of the butterfly?A friend that lived abroad in Spain for several years once told me that living overseas is like being pregnant. Everyone always raves about the glowing mom-to-be but neglects to share the details of bizarre cravings, swollen ankles, and watching one’s body completely metamorphis into something she can’t recognize as herself (or so I’ve heard). I guess the trick is to realize that a life based on outside reality is one destined for constant confusion and morning sickness.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Count me in! I’m going through lot of uncertainty in life which has a tendency to make me feel rattled. Participating in the life experiment will motivate and teach me that its all about how I react when things may not go my way!

  • […] recent blog read — Happiness is a Choice from 6 Months to Live. As Jacqueline writes, “Choosing happiness is about honoring the […]

  • Keri Kight says:

    The lovely Alexandra from Made to Glow sent me your way via her blog post.

    I love your message here and agree 100%. We have so many things that can go wrong in our lives, and truthfully it could be worse. But it’s our positive or negative attitude that makes or breaks us. We don’t have to be happy all the time because there our moments that deserve some attention, such as divorce or death. It is possible to show gratitude and be happy the majority of the time, and that makes a beautiful life. 🙂

    • Jacqueline says:

      Welcome Keri! I love Alex–she’s fantastic!

      So glad to hear that you’re enjoying the blog and message. I love your quote: “It’s our positive or negative attitude that makes or breaks us.” That’s so true! Wonderfully put!

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