Happiness is a Choice

I am a firm believer that the emotions we are feeling at any given time is a choice. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be grumpy. You may not agree with me and say that our bodies chemistry, our hormones play a part, and this is true. But we have the ability to change our body chemistry as well.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Choosing how you feel consistently takes practice and the desire to feel better. It also takes a conscious effort initially. Over time choosing how to feel becomes easier and requires less thought to do. It is like learning to drive a car. When you were learning you had to pay attention to every detail. You had to tell yourself to put on your seat belt, check the mirrors, and keep a vigilant lookout for what was going on in your environment. Over time getting in the car and putting on your seat belt and checking the mirrors became second nature. Now as you drive you can eat, talk on the phone, and pay attention to your environment all at the same time without having to think so much about each different action. Learning to alter your mood is the same way. After a while, you will recognize that you do not like your reaction to something, and you can change how you want to feel in a lot less time.

Oftentimes a negative feeling has an ulterior motive, and other times it is just how we want to feel. What might the ulterior motives be? It may be seeking attention, or it might be that we have been taught this is the appropriate reaction to a given situation. Maybe your life has been hectic, chaotic, and very busy and you just need some time off and solitude. You can be grumpy and quiet and this is a message to others that you need some space. You can choose that, but wouldn’t it be easier just to ask for what you need? People do not always get the clues and then how you are feeling affects how they react to you and before you know it there is drama going on around you. This is not fun. So, in “Joy Quest” we are looking for easier, better ways to go about feeling better and having a happier life.

How you start and end your day can play a large part. If you have a day where as soon as you wake up you begin thinking about something that is bothering you, or something that recently did not go right, your whole day will follow that path. The body and mind will find what is familiar and comfortable and try to take you down that path. Humans are habitual by nature. We run on routines and head towards the familiar. Scientists say that 90% of what we do and think is a repeat of the day before. We wake up thinking about the past, and we do the same things in almost the same way, day in and day out. That gets boring pretty quickly. Have you heard people say they feel like they are on a hamster wheel? This is it. And it is time to get off.

Instead of repeating the past, how about defining a new future? When you wake up in the morning, instead of moaning, hitting the floor, and heading straight for the coffee, how about taking a few minutes to stretch, breathe, and choosing how you want to feel? Choose to do things differently. Maybe mix up the order. How you choose to think will affect how you feel. When I wake up I no longer jump right out of bed. I enjoy that I slept. I enjoy what the morning weather is. I appreciate my dog looking forward to me getting up. I also, and this is very important, think about who I want to be this day. I think about how I want to feel. I am not making a to-do list of activities, just an idea of how I want to feel. This starts my day off much better than when I used to head straight for the coffee maker.

I give myself enough time in the morning to enjoy peace and quiet. I love to sit on my back porch and just take in the new day. Now I do have my coffee. As I do this I just do not put a lot of thought into it. I pet my dog, watch the birds, and listen. It is meditative and relaxing. I do not have to feel like I have to rush into my day unprepared. I began this practice when my kids were young. I tried to get up 30 minutes before everyone else so I could have some quiet time to myself.

How you approach your day makes a difference. If you are going to a job you do not like then make plans to change it. What is it about the job that is not pleasing to you. Sometimes we do not like our jobs just because that is how we are expected to feel about work. It is not expected to be fun and enjoyable, it is something we have to do to pay the bills.

If it is a horrible place to be then begin working towards something better. Learn a new skill, or brush up your resume. If you are stuck somewhere you do not want to be, you are there because you choose to be. I am not saying go in today and quit. I am saying start taking steps to improve your situation.

If it is how you relate to the people, then you can begin approaching them differently. Make a plan to say something nice to those you do not like to be around, daily. Look for the opportunities instead of the limitations where you are. I can honestly say I did not like being away from home every day but I was grateful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people at my job. I did not always get along with my co-workers, but I appreciated how hard they worked, and I was empathetic to their personal situations.

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

What goes in is what comes out. You cannot pour milk into a glass and expect to drink wine. It just does not happen. What do you expose yourself to on a daily basis? Do you listen to talk radio on the way to work, listen to the office gossip during the day then go home and watch the news? There is so much negative in the world. If this is what you are exposing yourself to this is what you will be feeling and thinking. You can not put in a constant flow of negative and expect positive to come out. It just does not work.

My husband likes to watch the news. I do not. I will take a book or my journal out to my porch and focus on anything but the news. I find I have a much happier outlook. I will watch what I think is important to know. I see updates of the corona virus, how it is affecting schools, and the weather. But the constant civil unrest, the shootings, the negative that is portrayed in our daily news is not beneficial to my positive mindset. In my car, I have a choice between my favorite music playlist, podcasts, and audible books. I found by turning off the radio I was not getting irritated so easily in traffic. I have also enjoyed many good books and increased my learning as I drive.  

The day can end much as it began. I take some alone time to evaluate how I did that day. Where did I not display who I want to be? If I slipped up I then ask myself how can I do better tomorrow. We are ever-expanding in who we want to be, who we display ourselves as. Is there anything we did that maybe we need to forgive ourselves for? Then do it. We can start each day new and fresh. Each day we can choose how we can feel and act.

You may ask me about reacting to how other people treat us. We have two choices. We can have a knee jerk reaction to other people’s behaviors or we can choose how we want to react to them. Just like choosing how you want to feel, we can choose how to react to the words and actions of other people. We can let it upset us, or we can understand that they may be unaware that they do not have to live on autopilot. We can be empathetic to personal struggles they may be experiencing. More importantly, we can choose how we feel no matter the choices others are making.

Today, begin noticing how you feel. You may want to put a note on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, and your dashboard of your car. Just something simple like, “How are you feeling right now?” This is just a simple reminder to choose to feel a way that benefits you instead of harming you. As you go through your day, happier, grateful, and at peace, you will be creating within yourself better chemicals and hormones. Our bodies were not made to like in a prolonged state of stress. The hormones and chemicals created to support stress have a harmful effect on our bodies and our health. Choosing to be happy more often, living in gratitude, will improve not only our mood but also our health.

If taking these steps feel like a huge leap for you, then you might want to consider hiring a coach. I help my clients to set goals, improve their sleep, relating to others, and their outlook on life. Schedule a free conversation with me so we can explore the path, your “Joy Quest.”

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