Is Happiness really a choice?

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

I used to often take umbrage at the statement “Happiness is a choice”. After all, why would anyone choose to be unhappy? 

But recently, I have started seeing some truths in it. So to understand that little truth, let’s do a simple thought experiment. 

Let’s think of our happiest moments in life. For most of us, it would bring the images of our friends, partners, some success milestone, or even some football team winning some trophy. Now, if I ask you to do the same experiment but for the saddest moments of our life, almost similar images would pop up again: the same friends, partners, some milestone, or some stupid football team. 

One common pattern to notice in these images is that we do not alone control our happiness, and it depends on the other object too. So, in a way, we do not even “fully” own the keys to our happiness. It’s either shared (like with friends or lovers) or at times totally handed (like to some football team). 

But are there even situations where we fully own the keys? Well, imagine now, that you like going for a run and that makes you happy. Of course, you can still choose not to go, and remain unhappy. But at least now, it is your choice. You own the key to your happiness. 

The same is if you feel happy listening to music, binge-watching Netflix, reading, or just writing. You control these actions. Of course, if you again worry about other factors—like total views or claps of your stories in medium— you are again giving away the key to others. Your choice to give away your key is making sure you don’t a choice over your happiness. So, that way, we actually do have a choice, at least in many scenarios.

So, the trick is to incorporate more activities in our life where we own the key, where we can make that choice. We might not experience the extreme moments of happiness from these small activities and hobbies, but we will significantly cut out potential misery from our life. Plus, we will also experience a sense of freedom, knowing we control our state. 

Just to make it clear, I am not calling for getting rid of all our friends, lovers, or beloved football teams. After all, the deep sense of togetherness or the extreme peak of happiness that we long for comes from our friends, lovers, and football teams. But with these external factors, we should be at least aware that our happiness is dependent, and we should try our best not to be overly dependent. The less dependent we are, the more freedom we can have over our life and happiness. 

Of course, life is not that easy, and we also come across unfortunate extreme situations at times, like losing our job, going bankrupt, losing some loved ones, etc. But these extreme moments are also very rare, and it is our daily activities and daily mental states that make most of our lives. So, if we can just minimize a little bit of misery (which is to maximize a little bit of happiness) across these daily normal days, that will mean a lot over the course of our lives.

Thus, by incorporating more hobbies and passions in our lives where we can make a choice, we can (at least partially) make happiness a choice!

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