“Happiness is a Choice.” True or False? Plus the Weekly video.

People often tell me is that “Happiness is a choice.” They say this with such emphasis, and such conviction, that I can tell that this is a very meaningful insight for them; it’s also one of the most widespread observations about happiness.

I understand what this means. But for me – and I’m just speaking for myself – it’s very hard to put that observation into practice. “I wake up every morning and decide to be happy,” one person said to me. I can’t really do that. It’s too…huge.

What works better for me is to decide what changes in my life would make me happier, and choose to make those changes. Same idea, just a different way of putting it into action.

So, for example, I realized that our mornings were not as happy a time as they could be. There was too much rushing, nagging, complaining, and foot-dragging. So I choose to:

• get up an hour earlier than my family, so I have plenty of time to get ready myself before helping everyone else get ready, which meant I also have to…
• go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6:00 am, yet still feel well-rested, and also…
• do an “evening tidy-up” each night so I don’t feel like I need to rush around, tidying up the apartment, as part of the morning routine
• sing in the morning to set a cheery tone
• make a deliberate effort not to “talk in a mean voice,” as my younger daughter puts it
• make an effort not to repeat myself over and over: “Put on your shoes,” “Is your backpack packed?” etc.
• touch everyone in my house with affection
• give my husband a real good-bye kiss

For me, it’s easier for me to imagine making these choices than choosing to be happy. I do better when I keep my resolutions very concrete.

How about you? Can you choose to be happy?

* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution was to Ask for help. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Beware of drift.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
A problem in happiness: drift.
Quiz: Are you drifting?

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman’s Day.

* Speaking of Woman’s Day, I just wanted to say THANKS for everything they’ve done in support of The Happiness Project. A great magazine, a great partner, great people.

  • sashathehappinessprojectlondon

    I agree that making small simple steps is a good way to feel happier. At the moment, I need to do more exercise as I’m feeling a little stressed for example.

    However, I do think being positive – being aware of your negative throughts and trying to change them into happy ones, and counting your blessings, is really important – especially if you’re a “grass is always greener” kind of person.

    Sasha @ The Happiness Project London

  • MJ

    After a very unhappy morning, I can say that what would have made our mad rush out the door happier (and easier) would be if I had made small changes–such as the ones you suggested. No amount of deciding to be happy would’ve improved it.

    I agree that being mindful helps. But isn’t that just another change? It’s less concrete (i.e., getting up an hour earlier) but is a way to help one attain some of the concrete resolutions. That is, when I hear myself thinking (or saying!) something negative I catch myself and either don’t say it or say something more positive afterwards in an attempt to mitigate the negativity. To me, being mindful is less vague than “be happy.”

    I’m rather fond of my new tea mug which has that ubiquitous phrase: “keep calm and carry on.” Somehow seeing that when my children dawdle reminds me to do exactly that.

  • Lisa

    I would say happiness is very much a choice, even in your example. Your decision necessitated many steps to make yourself happier, but they were all derived from the same decision. A decision to change your outlook and behavior so as to be happy. Without that original decision none of those others would have followed.
    Many people’s thoughts on how to be happy:
    http://www.pandalous.com/topic/how_to_be_happy

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s true, there is always a choice there, at some level.

  • ejranville

    About 12 years ago when my parent’s marriage was ending my father said to me “your mother doesn’t want to be happy.” At the time, that made me angry as I felt he was being overly harsh.

    10 years later knowing my mother as a single person I understand what my dad was saying–and that he was right. At times I find myself acting like my mother and I stop because I DO want to be happy.

    So, yes, I feel it is a choice. And when people choose unhappiness they can be energy sucks to the happy people around them.

  • http://www.selfimprovementexplained.com/blog Self Improvement Explained

    The problem with choosing to be happy is not the feeling itself but what we define as happiness.

    So if we think happiness is X then how can we be happy until we have that?

    I agree with you Gretchen…

    Decide what happiness means to you and go get it.

    Decide to HAVE happiness.

    Cheers,
    Rishi

  • Kelly

    Thank you! I can’t decide to be happy, anymore than I can decide to be “healthy”. I can, though, make happy decisions like I make healthy decisions. Choosing to get enough rest is a perfect example – I am choosing to do something that will help me to be mentally happy and physically healthy the next day. If I choose to get too little sleep, there’s no way I can wake up and “decide to be happy”. Ain’t gonna happen!

  • http://mwfseekingbff.com/ Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF

    I agree that choosing to be happy seems too big a decision to put into practice all at once. Instead, I try to choose NOT to be unhappy or angry. This morning when I arrived at work, first thing on a Monday morning, my co-workers were all grumbling about a morning meeting and the appearance of some “outsiders” (consultants) whose opinion they don’t respect and whose input they dread. I’d already exercised and felt I’d gotten the day, and week, off to a good start. I couldn’t necessarily choose to be happy in that moment (I really wasnt happy about the meeting or the consultants either), but I chose not to let the office politics ruin my good mood. I told a co-worker friend “it’s just too early in the day and week for me to let myself get angry and bitter about this.” And she said ok, respected it, and complained to someone else instead. People don’t want to gripe to someone who doesn’t want to listen or join, so I think telling others you are choosing NOT to be unhappy can make a real difference.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com/ Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    Great post, Gretchen. I’ll definitely be thinking about this one for a while.

  • kmglenn

    Today I did something incredible and I’m giving all the credit to my new Happiness Project. I did NOT overreact when my campus parking permit went missing. Those of you who work at a university or wherever can probably relate to the horror (insert smile here!) of inconvenience, potential fines, replacement cost, etc. I took a deep breath and told myself that whatever happens, no small child will die, the planet will continue to rotate on its axis and so forth. The stupid permit will show up….or not. Whatever.

    Sounds like a baby step but for me it was monumental. It was deliberate and I didn’t wake up thinking how happy I’d be if I didn’t melt down over a misplaced object. Thanks, Gretchen!

    P.S. This is the first time I’ve ever commented on any blog. Again, quite a day!

    • gretchenrubin

      That is JUST the kind of thing that can throw your whole day off. Gold star
      for maintaining your temper and sense of perspective!

      And thanks for commenting!

  • paulmbauer

    “Happiness Is a Choice” is the title of a book by Bears Kaufman of the Option Institute, http://www.option.org/custom:online-store-and-library,single,406#hiac. The book and a week at the institute back in ’94 helped me to craft a happier life. And reading The Happiness Project recently provided great reinforcement. Thanks, Gretchen, for sharing.

  • http://financialphilosopher.typepad.com/thefinancialphilosopher/ Kent_TheFinancialPhilosopher

    For me, happiness is the result of an unintended consequence of something other than the hyper-intention to “make myself happy.”

    In fact, I do not pursue “happiness,” per se, but rather practice contentment. The former is fleeting and the latter is radiating and self-feeding.

    Certainly, as others here have posted, happiness can be enabled but not necessarily manufactured.

    “My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it.” ~ Zhuangzi

    “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ~ Frederick Keonig

    I enjoyed the post and the video. Thanks for all of your efforts!

    Kent

  • http://twitter.com/swthomas55 Spencer Thomas

    It’s clear to me that unhappiness can be a choice. A friend of mine likes to say that “I don’t have any bad days — I have difficult days, challenging days, days when really bad things happen — but no bad days.” It’s all about my attitude, as captured in the saying “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

    Instead of unhappiness, I can choose to work towards resolving or mitigating whatever it is that’s pushing me towards unhappiness. So, if I can choose not to be unhappy, is that the same as “choosing happiness?”

    I can choose to act in ways that are productive of happiness, rather than in ways that are productive of unhappiness. I choose to call that “choosing happiness.”

  • jillrichardson

    Absolutely. We all get bogged down and stressed by trying to take on something so huge and nonspecific that we fail. You have to take something in bites, specific, reachable bites that you can see yourself reaching. With a house full of at least somewhat ADD people, I have learned this lesson, and it seems my kids finally have as well. Happiness is a choice–but it’s a choice that comes in pieces.

  • Heather

    In my life, it is less a matter of choosing to be happy, as it is choosing to not be unhappy. Obviously, there are limits, but:

    when stuck waiting an hour for an appointment – choose to not be bothered and as a gift of time to slow down and pay attention

    when a co-worker does something frustrating, choose to accept it either as a one-time failing that we’re all susceptible to, or as a part of who they are and move on.

    and so on.

    It’s amazing how much happier you feel when you unload all the things making you unhappy.

    • Heather

      I would like to add – it’s not an easy choice, like to turn on a light, but a work choice, like choosing to exercise regularly

    • gretchenrubin

      This is an interesting reversal — to choose not to be UNHAPPY.

  • http://penvspaper.com Jeffrey Tang

    In some situations, a change of perspective is enough to turn unhappiness into happiness. But as you said, most of the time, happiness is too big of a goal to reach through “just” choice.

    I’m sure we’ve all encountered situations where we know we shouldn’t be upset, where the voice inside our heads screams that we’re being silly and irrational and petty – but the fact remains: we’re upset. It’s hard to make the choice to be happy without setting up the right circumstances in which to make the choice.

  • Diana

    I think there are several levels of “choice” involved in happiness. Choosing to:
    1. lay the groundwork in terms of big and little life choices (job, choice of partner, sleep & exercise habits)
    2. cultivate a good attitude (I like the mantra from Katigiri Roshi: “Make positive effort for the good.”)
    3. note moments of happiness,
    4. become mindful of conditions that give way to happiness or unhappiness on a moment-to-moment basis in order to regroup and take action(“identify the problem and do what needs to be done”)

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, so true, several levels on which choices are made.

  • kathrynlang

    Everything in life is a choice. It takes as much energy (sometimes more) to be upset by something as it does to find the silver lining. Sometimes that small silver lining will be all that you need to push the clouds completely away.

  • http://positivelypresent.com Positively Present

    I really do believe happiness is a choice. However, that doesn’t at all mean that it’s an easy choice to make. Sometimes life can be really, really hard and it becomes very difficult to choose happiness. I suppose the real message behind that saying is that we can control what happens in our minds. There’s a lot that goes on outside of us, but we have the ability to control what kind of attitude we want to have.

  • Sue

    This is very good. How often have I felt guilty (yes, Guilty!) when I heard people say that happiness is a choice? So it follows that if I don’t feel happy, it’s my own fault, right?

    So I have tended to feel that happiness is outside my control, and if I’m unhappy it’s because it was meant to be that way. Which is not very positive.

    Your method, of making specific smaller changes leading to happiness, is exactly right I’m sure.

    Oh, and ejranville, my mother also chooses not to be happy. Even when she “counts her blessings” she always sounds negative. One of my major concerns as I get older is not to be like my mother in this respect. She was always like this, but as she has cancer now, it is a bit difficult to tell her that “Pain is inevitable, while suffering is optional”, so I guess I’ll keep that to myself for now.

    So for myself, I will try to make happy, healthy decisions, and (Rachel) I will not let other people bring me down with their complaining.

  • http://www.learn-android.com/ Sheridan

    I use “Happiness is a Choice” as a reminder for myself. To me it is a reminder that you often are not in control of things that happen in life, but you have complete control over how you react to those things.

    So when I am having a bad day and I feel like nothing is going right I say to myself, “Happiness is a choice” and then I look around me again and try to find something to brighten my mood. Using the phrase this way has proven remarkable effective for me.

  • Jenny

    I would learn to hear how you manage this point:
    -make an effort not to repeat myself over and over: “Put on your shoes,” “Is your backpack packed?” etc.

    There are some mornings that I have a terrible time getting my kids out the door, unless I get them ready myself.

  • http://thepursuitofhappyish.blogspot.com/ E.

    A great book on this topic is How We Choose To Be Happy by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks. It lists 9 choices that they found happy people tend to make – for example, recasting, i.e. figuring out how to make something positive come from a negative.

    I don’t think you can choose to be happy out of sheer force of will, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that the way you feel is the way you feel, whether it’s positive or negative. But you can set yourself up for happiness by doing the things you know to do. Some things you do make you feel happier, some make you feel worse.

    Here’s a quote I love that speaks to this idea:
    “Joy may appear to come suddenly, but in reality we prepare for joy every time we speak our truths, care for ourselves, expand our knowledge, nurture our friendships, let people love us, take on new adventures, and go where our hearts lead us.” ~ Charlotte Davis Kasl

  • Sarah

    This is an interesting question! I think my answer is “sometimes,” but by that I mean that I can sometimes use techniques that alter my mood or attitude to a more positive one — like you say about acting the way you want to feel, actually! Sometimes if I’m feeling unhappy, I can notice something I’m grateful for, or I can try to say something positive just to avoid saying something negative, and often that’s helpful, at least, and I’m happy about that!

  • http://rockoncali.blogspot.com rockoncali

    I feel though that once you get to the point where you are happy it’s easier to maintain that without an active decision to “choose to be happy”.

  • fraserorr

    I think a better way to say it is that “happiness is a skill not a gift.”

    Just as a skilled artisan learns a set of techniques, habit patterns, knowledge and perspectives that help them in their artistry, so happiness consists of many such techniques, habit patterns, knowledge and perspectives which leads to the artistry of a happy life.

    Many people expect someone else to make them happy, that happiness is a gift given by those they surround themselves with. There is some truth here, because connections are a core source of happiness, however, other people cannot, generally speaking, make you happy. The truth is that most people are unhappy because they have not learned the skills to be happy.

    So, to say “happiness is a choice” is to place a big heap of guilt on the shoulders of someone who is already hurting. “You mean I am choosing to feel this way?!?.”

    To say “happiness is a skill” is to say that there is a way from here to there, that involves application of self, dedication and learning, with each step along the way being a step into more and more happiness. And that is truly liberating.

    • Diana

      I love this idea of happiness as a skill. I think it is absolutely true as well as empowering.

    • volpino

      I like this idea too. It’s very realistic and so very true.

      • jenny_o

        Absolutely so!

    • http://teamrasler.blogspot.com/ Jessica

      This is absolutely wonderful. A close friend and I have struggled with this for years, and had so many people tell us that happiness was a choice at just the wrong moments. We put it on our list of Things Not to Say, in fact, because we found it so unhelpful and seems to place too much guilt and burden on the person who is hurting. I LOVE your rephrasing of it, and can’t wait to share it with her! Thank you!

    • ummtiflain

      “Happiness is a skill.” ……….How lovely!

      There are many things in my life that I have no control over and they make me very unhappy. Often I feel like I can never attain true happiness yet when I read this it actually has given me some sort of hope. Instead of thinking I must “attain and retain happiness” I could think of it more along the lines of happiness as a “skill” that I should try to develop in spite of the difficult things in my life that I cannot control. Thank you.

  • http://survivingnarcissism.com/ Jesse

    I try to interject humor wherever possible. “Can I drag a brush through your hair before we head out the door? Are you going to share that breath with the whole world? How about socks on both feet today?” And if that doesn’t work, I resort to my best version of a Mary Poppin’s accent. It proves to be more effective than barking at them to put their shoes on and brush their teeth. Of course, there are plenty of days when we are sharing our bad breath with the rest of the world. But the earth’s rotation hasn’t stopped yet.

    • gretchenrubin

      Humor is great – challenging to use, but great!

  • http://www.craigharper.com.au/ Craig Harper

    Over the last two decades (and a bit) I’ve worked with many people living in what you and I would call less-than-desirable situations; people with terminal illnesses, people living in poverty and people who have endured hardship (violence, abuse, incarceration, tragedy) that I often found difficult to comprehend. Somehow these amazing people have found their way to happiness– by choice. While many would understandably sink, these people chose to swim. Fly even. While self-pity, misery and desperation would seem the logical outcomes of their “life experience”, they consciously chose and created happiness; even though sadness would have seemed very reasonable and some might say, appropriate. They opted to be all about the solution, not the problem and to find the good rather than to inhabit the bad. They chose to create a reality of happiness.

    Not denial or delusion but genuine happiness.

  • http://somebodyhealme.dianalee.net/ Diana Lee

    I do believe happiness is a choice, but that it okay to occasionally feel sorry for yourself and lament things that are legitimately outside of your control. The key is to shake that off and work on maintaining perspective. Even when things are horrible there is almost always something to find joy in. Even if it’s something really small that can make a huge difference.

  • nielmalan

    “Happiness is a choice” makes me fear for the sanity of depressed people. So many lovely people are depressed without knowing it, and therefore unhappy and not able to make a choice about it. (I know: I’ve had a decade or more of depression and dysthymia.) Recovery is possible, but not guaranteed, and it takes a step of enormous trust in something or somebody outside yourself.

    I would also not believe too hard in “you have a choice on how you react.” We’re animals, and much of our reactions are instinctive overlain with a veneer of rationalization.

    I like the idea that happiness is a skill, but I would qualify it even more and say “happiness is a learnable skill” (hence my Happiness Project) and that skill consists of a few basic principles and a large number of small hacks. Like getting up early enough to make mornings better.

    • gretchenrubin

      If I remember correctly, Buddhists talk about “skillful emotions” and
      “unskillful emotions” as some people have done here. Very interesting. A
      skill can be learned and practiced.

      I can’t speak for commenters, but when I talk about happiness, I think of
      three categories: happiness, unhappiness, and depression. On this blog, I’m
      not addressing the problems of depression, which I consider an urgent and
      grave condition that demands immediate expert attention. Way out of my
      league.

      So a question like “Is happiness is a choice?” isn’t intended to be meant
      for people suffering for depression, but for people on the ordinary
      happiness/unhappiness range.

  • http://enlightr.com/ Craig Thomas

    I really believe happiness is a choice – like everything else. :)

    Drifting is very interesting, Once, it was an issue for me, now I can knock myself out of it by thinking about how small I am in the universe and how much I want to achieve my goals. That usually pushes me in the right way. :)

  • http://amzn.com/144218776X Keith

    I think that you are correct that the choices that lead to happiness are not so much one big decision to “just be happy” as they are a compilation of smaller steps that lead to happiness. From a Christian perspective, I’ve spent time trying to analyze the apostle Paul’s assertion, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and ever situation.”

    In a letter in which joy is a key theme, I think we can discern the smaller actions and attitudes which enabled Paul to speak of being content even while sitting in prison facing possible execution for his religious beliefs. Those smaller choices included things like looking for the good in every situation and person, being grateful for whatever is good, focusing on “whatever is noble . . . right . . .pure. . . lovely” etc.

    If you would like to explore more of that “secret”, see http://amzn.com/144218776X

  • sumsmom

    My dad has the “choose to be happy” philosophy. He doesn’t like to hear complaining or whining from other people. He calls those kinds of people battery drainers because they suck the happiness right out of you. He says if you can’t find something good in your life, something wonderful that counteracts whatever complaint you have, then something is wrong with you. If you have a roof over your head, food on your table, you are disabled, etc., then life is pretty good and you should remember that. :)

    Wow, you totally listed all the things that I want to change in my morning routine also. I hate the way my morning goes getting my daughter out of bed and ready for school, absolutely hate it and am determined to change it somehow. The only thing that is stopping me at this point is the “getting up an hour earlier” part. I am sooo not a morning person and this is VERY hard for me to achieve.

    Corinna

  • Colleen

    Decide to be happy, then work to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, OR do the things that you know will result in making you happy. Some people make very broad New Year’s resolutions, then plug away at making them stick and some detail lots of concrete goals that will result in the “resolution kept” evaluation. I think it depends on realizing what kind of person you are, and embracing it. To “Be Gretchen” you do the things that get results. For me, to “Be Colleen” I hold the idea of what I want in my head and, as I go, I make the choices that seem to be the best ways to achieve that goal. Of course I was raised that I started out every class in school with an A and that my job was to keep it. I still had to do the work, the same work, but my mindset was different.

  • ninkernarts

    I have that mug too, as well as a large block mounted poster on my office wall. You’ve got to hand it to those stiff-upper-lip Brits for putting it so succinctly: keep calm and carry on!

  • jennylemmons

    I think there might be a personality divide at work here, much like your brilliant abstainer/ moderator insight. I think some people are “top-down” happy, who can decide at the abstract level to be happy today, and others work better with a “bottom-up” approach, doing small, measurable things that add up to a better attitude.

    I find I am very much the first, “choose happiness” type, because if I haven’t adjusted my attitude at the top, my heart isn’t in the small activities. On the other hand, I can completely see how the other approach works better for others.

  • Lisa O’D

    I loved your entry, and I can totally relate to your dislike of morning mayhem. I just don’t think I can get out of bed earlier! I completely agree that Happiness is a choice. You can choose to dwell on what is not good about your life, complaining and grumbling, or you can choose to change what you don’t like, just as you did, Gretchen, when you chose to start your Happiness Project. I think it’s the same result (hopefully) approached at a different angle. The important choice we make it to focus on getting ourselves to a happier place. I find it a struggle every day, as evidenced by my blow-up at my 8 year old daughter this morning over her foot-dragging, not likng the breakfast offered, etc. (sounds like me grumbling). I’m going to choose to try harder tomorrow! By the way, how do you avoid the repeating yourself over and over and still get your kids out the door on time?

    • gretchenrubin

      A lot of time I do have to repeat myself over and over. But what I realized
      was that I was repeating myself without even giving my children a chance to
      comply — just keep barking out, “Put on your shoes, put on your shoes!”
      without waiting to see if they do put on their shoes, etc.

      • Joe

        Oh, I’m really really guilty of the repetitive syndrome. It can be challenging not to do this when you have a 5 yo little boy who refuses to focus on what he’s supposed to be doing!! But he’s such a cutie that I have to smile in the end…. ;-)

  • kathykathy

    I always try to look at the world around me like a 2 year old would – everything is amazing and delightful when you let yourself see the world this way. Do you know how many blue cars there are on the road now? My two year old is keeping track.

  • onedelightfulthing

    I actually do choose to be happy every day that I can and it seems to work when I’m conscious of it. Getting up an hour earlier would make me very unhappy :) I’d rather just do the mental adjustment.

  • ummtiflain

    Depending on the age level of your children have a quick talk with them…explain to them that you don’t like repeating yourself and that they should be able to do some things without having to be told.

    For example: I tell my daughter “when we wake first we go to the toilet, wash your hands and face, then get dressed”. If she goofs about I remind her with only one word depending on what needs to be done. So I say: “uniform” in a firm voice instead of “go get dressed, you’re late!”. I find this minimizes the nagging and repeating.

    Simple things like these can be done when kids are on auto pilot, still groggy with sleep but it’s important they understand what’s expected of them. My young daughter knows what’s expected from her in the morning. And she knows that I mean business when I tell her she will wear her pajamas to school if she doesn’t get a move on!

    Hope that helps a little.

  • TheSacredAmi

    Ok, so we are drifting. What to do about it? It’s easy: list your long term goals based upon how you envision your perfect life (don’t worry about obstacles). Then brainstorm ways to achieve them by setting short term goals. Just doing that will snap you out of drifting and become mindful.

  • http://lifebeyonddeadlines.blogspot.com/ april

    I just wanted to say that I loved your book. I think The Happiness Project is an amazing idea and will really help alot of women. I know it has already began to make 2010 my happiest year yet. Thank you for being inspiring.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! I’m so happy to hear that it resonated with you. Good luck with YOUR
      happiness project!

  • http://daringclarity.com/ Lana {Daring Clarity}

    It’s all about conscious choice isn’t it? Thank you, Gretchen, for reminding us how simple that choice can be. Just choose, decide and do.

  • Katie

    Yet again, I’m watching/reading an incredibly timely post! Gretchen, I never thought of “drift” in this way, but can recognize so much of it in my life right now. I’m on the verge of deciding to take a leave of absence from my job, or resign, and was hoping that my boss’s reaction would help me make the decision. Drift alert! Wake up, Katie! I can see how quickly I’m ready to put the decision in someone else’s hands simply to avoid the anxiety of making a tough decision on my own. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of directing my own course…proactively.

  • jes_lyn

    Happiness is a choice. My dad always told me that I could choose my attitude. I never believed him until I had a rough year was overloaded and concentrated on negative thoughts too often. The year became a downward spiraling whirlwind, I felt like I had lost all control. I was then diagnosed with depression, put on medicine and went to a counselor. I had weekly trips to my doctor and counselor for a few months. In the end my doctor stated that the medicine was not affecting me, like it does for other people and all of the improvements I had made were coming from me, making the decision and by working with my counselor. She offered to put me on a different medication or I could go off of it. I went off of it and nothing changed, although I do believe some people need medicine for this medical condition, it was comforting to know that you can beat the odds.

    After this recent experience I remind myself that it is a choice to find joy in the small every day routines. Yes some days are better than others but that is what makes the good days so good. You can turn a bad day around it is not always easy but it is possible. Having a positive outlook and focusing on what is good in your life can make all the difference. Remembering that you control your happiness, not your friends, family, school or work.

    It is your choice to make today the best day!

  • http://www.bakeat350.blogspot.com/ bridget {bake at 350}

    I really like your list, Gretchen! I may have to adopt it myself. I think it is easier to have things to “do” rather than just “be happy.”

  • theedchronicles

    Looking forward to reading your book and perhaps recommend to my book club.

    http://the-ed-chronicles.blogspot.com/2010/03/happiness-project-ed.html

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! Enjoy! If you want a discussion guide for your book group, just
      email me to let me know, and I’ll email you a copy.

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    2. Set yourself up to be happy.
    3. Choose your thoughts wisely.
    Happiness is a choice and therefore starts in your mind. If you think on things that are unhappy you will be unhappy. Begin the process of being happy by changing what you think on. You have a choice of what you are going to dwell on so make the choice to think about happy things.

  • Richard

    We do not control the world or anything in it. We believe we do have some control so we try to make the world the way we would have it be. This ultimately leads to frustration. Relax, let everything be as it is, let people be as they are. Realize that you do not need anything to be different and in that space you can be happy.

  • Jimrich

    Choosing to be happy or better still choosing NOT to be unhappy is becoming a miraculous process in my later life (I’m 73). It seems so easy now to remember to be happy and NOT unhappy when things go wrong or become difficult. I’d like to be ecstatically happy all the time but will settle for staying just on degree above unhappiness if and when it comes over me as it always did in the past. All I ever wanted my whole life was to be happy but didn’t know it as such. Since my childhood was difficult, I became accustomed to being unhappy, angry, sad, FRIGHTENED, depressed, anxious and a lot of other negative reactions with moments of happiness sprinkled in. I just recently learned about choosing happiness and have been doing it with wondrous results. If all I can do is turn back the tendency to become unhappy, I am grateful and satisfied.
    Thanks
    Jim

  • Thecyberpresident

    No. Being happy is a learned skill. Just like unhappiness is learned. Implementing skills is a personal choice. People don’t choose to be depressed. Depression chooses people. Some people don’t even realize they are depressed until their bodies show physical signs or symptoms ie: heart attack,, nausea, suicide.

  • Kuntur65

    To say “Happiness is a choice” means that, as we can move and control our physical body, the same is for our emotions and our mind. No one tells, “my leg controls me” or “my leg goes where it wants”, then, why  my emotions will control me?. I will decide where my emotions will go and what will I feel. I want to be happy, so I will be happy. It is not easy, its the same when you learn how to walk, step after step, controlling your legs, but now the learning is how to control your emotions, how to be happy. 

  • celebrate_reason

    ^this

  • Bob Dole

    Right, why don’t all these stupid kids in Africa just be happy…   Oh yeah, they have no food and their life is terrible…  Some people are handed everything and still feel the need to rub it into other’s faces.  It’s called being ‘smug’…   So yes, happiness is a choice when you’re handed happiness and you have the choice to be unhappy…  -unhappy guy.

  • Obama!

    Decide to be happy and then change what you want to change.  People use unhappiness to make changes.  It’s not necessary or efficient.  I can’t be happy until I get what I want is a common belief.  What’s preventing you from being happy right now, this instant?  

  • Dylan

    Happiness is a choice.. Kids in Africa are happy, not all of them, but they are! It’s not so much of a choice that one day you wake up and decide to be happy ( It can be ) It’s more like a talent or a skill. An art that anyone can master, don’t sit around and wait for someone to make you happy.. You CAN make yourself happy!