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.
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.
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: