Is Happiness A Choice?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Many people have figured out that happiness is a choice, and whether they decide to choose it every day is up to them. Pleased people refuse to be bound by their circumstances and have learned not to find their happiness in possessions or people. They know that once we stop defining happiness the way the rest of the world wants us to, we start seeing that the decision to be happy is always up to us.
The Science of Happiness
Psychology was founded to focus on the less pleasant aspects; it was a science that concentrated on the worst-case scenarios and on what could go wrong.
This means that majority of the efforts and funding went towards researching people with mental health problems or disorders or those who had been survivors of tragedy and trauma. While there is nothing wrong with trying to help those struggling, this approach also meant that there was little or poor understanding about well-being, happiness, success, and higher functioning.
However, all of that changed with the advent of positive psychology. Suddenly, attention was being paid to factors that increase productivity at work, happiness in relationships, and fulfillment in our lives.
This science of happiness has enabled us to open our eyes to previously undiscovered findings of life’s sunny side.
Studies and Research
- It is believed that money can ‘buy’ happiness only up to a limit of around $75,000 – beyond that, money has no real impact on our emotional health (Kahneman and Deaton, 2010).
- Genetics has little to do with our happiness; it is largely determined by our daily lives and experiences (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade, 2005).
- Chasing happiness through social ways (such as more interactions with friends and family) has more chances of being effective than other means (Rohrer, Richter, Brummer, Wagner, and Schmukle, 2018).
- The happier we are, the better citizens we are likely to be – happiness can be used to predict civil engagement in people transitioning towards adulthood (Fang, Galambos, Johnson, and Krahn, 2018).
- Happiness can increase success in professional lives. Moreover, it does not have to be ‘organic’ happiness – experimental enhancing of positive emotions also led to improved work outcomes (Walsh, Boehm, and Lyubomirsky, 2018).
- Happiness and religious involvement are linearly related. The higher the worship service, the higher the commitment to faith is likely to be, and the higher this commitment is, the higher a person’s compassion is likely to be. Those more compassionate individuals are likelier to extend emotional support to other people, and those who offer emotional support are likelier to be happy (Krause, Ironson, and Hill, 2018).
How Can We Choose Happiness?
Knowing that happiness is a choice is a significant step, but it is not enough. We still need to learn how to choose happiness, and, in this section, we will discuss some ways to do that:
1) Be grateful
One thing that is common to most happy people is that they dedicate their attention to the positive things in life. Every day, they go out of their way to find reasons to be grateful and grasp every opportunity to express that gratefulness. Since gratitude reciprocates, these people find more and more reasons to be grateful.
The process towards improving your mood and boosting your happiness might be as simple as curving your lips upwards. According to a Michigan University study conducted in 2011, workers who produced positive thoughts and smiled as a result of those thoughts were less likely to portray withdrawal and fatigue. On the other hand, workers who fake-smiled ended up with worse moods and work withdrawal.
3) Be compassionate
If you want your brain to ‘accommodate’ more happiness, you should set your mind towards compassion. Several brain studies conducted on the French monk Matthieu Ricard showed that, during moments that he practiced kindness-loving meditation, his brain formed gamma waves of the kind that were ‘never reported in the neuroscience literature.’ Since our brains have the ability to transform based on our thoughts and feelings constantly, Ricard has the highest recorded capacity for happiness.
To conclude, happiness is, indeed, a choice, and all we need to do is convince ourselves that people, possessions, or circumstances cannot determine our happiness. Every moment brings with it an opportunity to be happy, and it is solely up to us to grasp those chances.