Happiness seems to be one of those things that eludes many. When asked what it means, many of us have a difficult time finding words to adequately define it. Perhaps the reason for this is that happiness is not a single feeling; I think it is more of an overall outlook on life.
In the book, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
, Howard C. Cutler, M.D., psychiatrist and co-author, states, ” . . . happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.”
This means that happiness comes from within, not from circumstances, nor is it something found like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It is something that we can meditate upon and decide
I think the most important thing to consider, and probably a prerequisite to experiencing happiness, is that we can choose not to be unhappy. Even in bad situations, we can refuse to become unhappy about it. Having a happy state of mind does not mean that we won’t have, or should ignore, feelings of loss, frustration or disappointment. But choosing to maintain a positive outlook can help us to view negative occurrences within the proper perspective, not allowing the resulting emotions to become an all-encompassing feeling of discontent.
This puts a lot of control in our hands. It means taking responsibility for our own states of mind, as well as enjoying the freedom to choose how we will live. We can’t always choose the situations that occur within our lives, but we certainly have full control over the way we react to them.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Being that they’re surrounded by suffering and death, separated from loved ones, and facing the prospect of their own demise, one would expect the prisoners to have feelings of apathy or despair. Instead, this passage illustrates that even in the midst of the most horrendous circumstance, there is still a choice of how to react to it. Therefore, when it comes to happiness, the onus is on us; and when it comes to UNhappiness, the onus is on us.
Perhaps, the best example I can provide is one from my own life. In my previous post, Changing the Frame
, I discussed how I reframed the situation regarding my divorce, which resulted in a shift in my overall outlook. As long as I continued to focus on what I felt was being “taken away” (negative frame), I remained in a holding pattern of sadness and regret. However, once I began to realize the opportunities that are now available to me as a result of this situation, I started to see more of what I was “gaining” (positive frame). My outlook changed because I CHOSE to focus on opportunity instead of loss.
Summarized, this was my experience:
DIVORCE = LOSS (negative frame)
negative reaction —> negative thoughts —> negative feelings —> negative outlook —> depression
DIVORCE = NEW OPPORTUNITIES (positive frame)
positive reaction —> positive thoughts —> positive feelings —> positive outlook —> happiness
I refuse to be unhappy; this has become a daily affirmation for me. I believe that happiness is a state of being that is chosen, not a feeling or a prize that will be awarded at some undetermined date. I think it is something that we choose to BE in the here and now. So, if you ask me, I think the secret to happiness is simply . . . choosing to be happy.
Happiness is a choice
[Image via H34]
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