Is happiness really a choice?

I’ve read a lot about happiness being a supposed choice and it got me thinking. Part of me agrees that it is and I have chosen to work on my own mindset in recent years, feeling much happier as a consequence. However, it feels a bit glib to say that anybody can think themselves happy because the playing field is not even.

I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. My demons are conquerable. There has been more light and love in my life than darkness and pain, meaning that digging around in the murky depths of my psyche to try and understand myself better, hasn’t been too awful. It hasn’t been easy, but it has always been doable. For some, it isn’t.

I have friends who have lost their lives to alcohol and suicide. Their demons were too powerful and they couldn’t break free. None of these people were alone – they had loving families, friends, and health workers, etc all trying to save them, but it wasn’t enough. The pull of the darkness was too much.

I would never say that these people might have lived if they’d tried harder. They all tried their best and that’s all anybody can do.

That’s not to say you cannot pull yourself back from the brink and find happiness if you had a traumatic past or live with a lot of emotional pain. Anything is possible and I do love to read stories of transformation, such as that of Pastor Mick who was a drug dealer about to shoot someone when he had a sudden realisation, turned his life around, and became a man of the cloth who helps the homeless of Burnley. Mick has been at rock bottom and that makes him the ideal candidate to help those who are struggling to survive.

Happiness is definitely a choice for me and I am working on choosing it every time. That’s not to say there aren’t times when I feel low or find myself at the mercy of old patterns. I fall off the horse all the time, but these days, it doesn’t take long to get back on and shift my mood. If I do have an off day, I accept it as just that. I try and immerse myself fully in whatever emotion has hit me, which usually allows it to pass through.

The trouble is, you can’t do this for another. Everybody has to do this work for themselves. I met a woman at a book group recently who confessed that she had been miserable for three years, ever since she was laid off. She cannot find joy in anything and has decided that without her old job, she never will. There isn’t anything I can do or say to shake her out of this mindset. Her unhappiness is palpable. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not going to help in job interview situations or when she is out and about making connections. It’s hard to spend a lot of time in her company because her mood is infectious. She alone holds the key to the prison of her mind. Nobody else can help her. I don’t try and talk her out of her misery or suggest solutions. All I can do is listen. It’s the best thing you can do for anybody.

When you feel miserable, the world looks like a miserable place, yet on the flip side, when your mood is elevated, you tend to see all the good in the world and believe me, there is so much of it! People are on the whole, kind and generous.

What should you do if you can’t break out of a spell of unhappiness? Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing your best. Remember, it is entirely possible to change your mindset, but it may be hard work. That’s okay, all you need to do is take baby steps and trust that it will all work out. Also, the universe is rooting for you. So am I. You really have got this!

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