I love to play tennis. It usually makes me happy (unless I’m playing like total crap).
Generally, I know that by choosing to play tennis, I’m likely to evoke happiness.
I’m not choosing happiness, I’m choosing to play tennis. There’s a difference. We may not be able to choose our emotions, but we can choose the actions we take that affect our emotions.
When I decide to watch a YouTube video I love, I invite happiness. When I decide to read the comments below that video, I invite anger.
When I’m more selective about the invitations I put out into the world — and focus on those things that bring me joy— I invite a more peaceful, contented life.
Do you want to experience more happiness?
If yes, what are you doing to make that happen?
Are you choosing habits, activities, and relationships that support your desire for more happiness? If not, no problem, you can start right now.
What tends to make you smile and feel good? If it’s fresh air, then get outside every day, even for five minutes. If it’s bowling, then drag a friend to the lanes once a week, or join a league.
If it’s good conversation, then pick up the phone and call someone you love, someone who makes you laugh. If it’s reading, then read a . . . wait, you’re doing that!
We don’t have to imagine making positive choices. Instead, we can just make them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to myself, “I need to get outside more.” Well, outside is literally just on the other side of my door.
That desire is absolutely within my power. Consider all the positive choices that are within your power right now. Even spending five minutes a day focused on activities that bring us joy makes a difference. It’s five more minutes spent feeding your soul.
It’s also an energetic declaration that you matter enough to yourself to invite the possibility of happiness into your life.
The desire for more happiness also requires us to pay attention to the habits, activities, and relationships that don’t support our well-being.
What choices are we making that direct us away from the possibility of happiness? When we become aware of these choices, and clear about how they make us feel, we empower ourselves to stop making them.
Awareness always comes first. Whenever I eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting, I end up feeling like crap. Can you imagine that? Knowing this, it’s up to me to put down the pint before I’ve inhaled it all.
If I choose not to, I’m also choosing to steer myself away from the possibility of happiness (and to the probability of diarrhea — sorry, that’s gross but true).
What choices are you making that don’t serve the possibility of happiness? What habits can you consider altering or getting rid of completely? What relationships leave you feeling depleted rather than energized?
We can’t choose happiness, but we can choose to take care of ourselves. We can choose to say no to those things that don’t make us feel good.
Just as we have the power to make healthy choices, we have the power to stop making unhealthy ones. If we want to find more happiness, that is.
There’s No Guarantee
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, however, even when we make positive choices. I did an hour of yoga every day that February, and I still felt moody and unhappy and anxious at different points throughout the month. That’s life.
Most of us want to believe in cure-alls, but they don’t exist.
I’ve spent much of my adult life searching for the one book, superfood, or habit to eradicate all my emotional or physical problems. If I just do yoga, I’ll discover inner peace. If I drink more water, I’ll be energetic all the time. If I sleep eight hours a night, I’ll be less moody.
Okay, that one works, but I’m still plenty moody. Healthy habits will always serve us, but they don’t guarantee happiness, either.
Still, there’s absolutely no downside to taking care of ourselves.
Along with choosing activities that stand to influence our happiness, we need to be more selective with our thoughts. Those, we can choose a lot of the time. Attitude matters in our experience of life, and a bad attitude never invites a good life.
When I revert to viewing my reality with a negative slant, my reality turns darker. When I commit to staying open to the positive in any situation, my world glows brighter.
I’m not suggesting that we pretend everything is rosy when we’re stuck in a bush of thorns. But doesn’t it serve us to give at least as much attention to the positives as we do to the negatives?
When I make an effort to integrate positive thinking 50 percent of the time, the quality of my life goes up about 5,000 percent. That’s a sensational return on investment.
Though the following has been stated four billion times, and we all know it in our hearts to be true, it’s worth repeating: lasting or recurring happiness has nothing to do with the outside world.
One of the great barriers to happiness lies in the stubbornness with which we seek it outside ourselves — in clothes and cars and husbands and girlfriends and TV and drugs and, and, and.
Your happiness lives within you, not I the stitches of your brand-new jeans or the salary increase from your promotion at work. Have you ever felt miserable, even though things were going pretty well? Or content, even though you were out of work and late with the bills?
I remember the day I got the offer for this book. I was sad that day, about the state of our world, and though I felt excited to get a book offer, my sadness stayed with me.
An Inside Job
Our outside circumstances affect how we feel, but they are not the makers or breakers of our happiness. That will always be an inside job. And happiness, like all the emotions, will always be fleeting, moving in and out of our lives. Staying for a while, then retreating, then returning again.
Life is about more than happiness, anyway. It’s okay to feel all the things we feel. It’s human. Consider everything we’d miss out on if we were happy all the time. My sadness has taught me empathy and compassion for others in pain, a gift I cherish as much as any other.
My sadness also brings a depth to my joy that wouldn’t exist without the contrast. When I really allow myself to be sad, I also open myself up to profound happiness.
My anger has ignited in me many calls to action and has been the catalyst for countless moments of change. Even the threat of shame, which never leads to happiness, has inspired me at times to make different, more meaningful choices than I might otherwise have. All our emotions serve us.
They all have wisdom to share, when we’re willing to listen.
We all want to be happy, and we can use that desire in many ways to create a more fulfilling life. Though we can’t choose happiness, we can choose habits and activities that make us feel good and relationships rooted in acceptance and respect that support the truest expression of who we are.
We can choose to honor ourselves by taking care of our bodies and minds, and by being grateful for the innumerable gifts that brighten our lives. We can choose to be kinder, more compassionate, and more loving human beings, with strangers, friends, family, and ourselves.
We can make all those important choices, and we can remember that we are all connected — all brothers and sisters — and all worthy of love. If we do all that, we still won’t be able to choose happiness, but there’s a greater chance that happiness will start to choose us more often.
About the Author
Scott Stabile is the author of Big Love. His inspirational posts and videos have attracted a huge and devoted social media following, including nearly 360K Facebook fans and counting. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, he lives in Michigan and conducts personal empowerment workshops around the world. This article was excerpted from his book Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart, by Scott Stabile. Copyright ©2017 by Scott Stabile. Printed with permission from New World Library
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