Choosing to Have Good Days
With the economic turmoil going on around us, each of us is either experiencing the repercussions or knows someone who is hit hard with it. It may be difficult to keep ourselves feeling good and maintaining enjoyment in life with the “daily dose” of bad news.
If happiness is an outside job, we may have struggles when the outside world that we live in starts to fall apart. As we hear and see the gloom and doom of everyday life, we may feel that we have no choice but to have the gloom and doom inside ourselves. But the good news is this – happiness is an inside job. Regardless of what happens on the outside, we can maintain an overall mood that is happy. We can still enjoy our moments and make the most of the life we are living.
Rick Foster and Greg Hicks wrote the book How We Choose to Be Happy and researched happy people, going into communities across the world and asking for the happiest person in the community. Then they interviewed these people. They found that truly happy people lived making the same nine choices.
First the authors defined happiness by these “happy” people’s definitions and came up with the three C’s. True happiness is a profound, enduring feeling of contentment, capability, and centeredness. This means that there is a sense of well-being that comes from knowing you can deal productively and creatively with all that life offers, both good and bad. There is a real knowing of what you need rather than responding to the demands of others. There is a sense of living in the moment and enjoying life.
Now they didn’t find that happy people had only experienced the “joys of life.” What they found was that truly happy people allow themselves to feel deeply the range of emotions that life can bring forth. They often had experienced some of life’s deepest sorrows. But through that experience, they were able to go to a long-term state of happiness. It was how they dealt with the experiences that resulted in feelings of contentment, capability, and centeredness.
The first step towards making the decision to live a happy life is to have intention. Having intention means you have an active desire and commitment to be happy. You make the decision to consciously choose attitudes and behaviors that lead to happiness over unhappiness. Intention is the first and foremost step towards happiness because it is always fully within our control. We may not be able to control our circumstances but we can always choose how we react to things around us. Our internal messages drive us, directing how we respond, what we say, and how we will see the circumstances. So happiness is a mindset. We set the intention to be happy (our mindset) and then we choose to respond accordingly.
So you set the intention in advance and you respond with the attitude that will best enhance the quality of the experience. Then you move into the second choice: accountability. You take accountability of your life. If you want to be happy, you assume personal responsibility for your actions, thoughts and feelings. You give up blaming others and viewing yourself as a victim. You intend to live your life responding appropriately to bring about happiness and contentment into your life. Accountability means that you take full responsibility for your life. You are in charge of your life. If you have a bad day or respond poorly to a circumstance, you take responsibility for making that choice. You also could have chosen to respond in a way that would keep you centered and content. It is an empowering thought that you truly have control over how you feel, that you can learn to live life in a way so you can stay centered. Happy people don’t see themselves as victims. Rather they focus on solutions to their problems and how to make their lives better.
Identification is the third choice. Happy people figure out what makes them truly happy. It requires looking within yourself and understanding what makes you happy. This is paying attention to yourself and not assuming that others know what will make you happy. You really do give yourself what you need for your own self fulfillment. It means identifying your needs, aspirations, interests and passions and then making them a priority over conformity to what others think will make you happy or think you should do. In the book, the authors suggest making a dream list where you spend four minutes writing all the things that make you happy. You write as fast as you can without stopping. This allows for some of the internal ideas to surface so you can hear them through the writing.
Centrality is the fourth choice that happy people implement into their lives. This is the step where you insist on making central to your life those things which bring you happiness. You make the decision to pursue the greatest passions of your mind and your heart. You make central to your life that which brings you the greatest joy. You may have to utilize creativity and problem-solving. Those are the keys to bringing your passions into your life. Money is not the key.
Recasting is the next choice. This is a two-step process that transforms stressful problems and trauma into something meaningful, important and a source of emotional energy. So when life circumstances take you to your knees, you experience the depth of emotion that it brings up and then you pick yourself up and begin to transform your feelings. You look at the event or circumstances to gather whatever lessons you can learn from it. You look at how the circumstances can open new doors or opportunities. You navigate through the difficult times by raising the positive emotional value of the event. You look to gain insight and learning from the experience. I would call this “reframing”. You take the “dark night of your soul” and transmute the story in your mind into an experience you are glad you had because of the changes it brought about in you.
The sixth choice for happiness is options. Options are when you approach life by creating multiple scenarios, you are open to new possibilities, and you adopt a flexible approach to life. Basically, the authors found that rigidity does not fit well in the life of a happy person. Happy people are more flexible. They get up in the morning with an idea of how the day will go, but they are open to the changes that might happen during the day. They look at different scenarios, options, and figure that the outcome will take care of itself. Every new experience is approached as an adventure with the journey as the key to life’s happiness—not the destination.
Appreciation is the next choice in living a happy life. Happy people appreciate deeply their life and the people in it. They stay in the present by not missing their moments, turning them into memories that they thoroughly enjoyed. Happy people do not take their moments for granted. They see life as a gift and look for what can be appreciated in the moment. Happiness can be felt only now, in this moment. Happiness comes when we take what is happening in the moment and attach it to our immediate feelings. For instance, crawling into bed at night smelling the freshly washed sheets and noting the coolness on our skin can give us a moment of gratitude, and with it comes contentment. In that moment you can feel happiness.
Giving is the eighth choice. True giving comes from the same place as deep happiness is found. It is a desire to share personal self worth and values. One of the highest levels of giving is to empower someone to be independent. Many happy people are involved in mentoring programs or job programs for the poor and needy. Happy people give without expecting a return. Their giving is a decree of their heart which allows the contentment and joy they feel to flow out into the world.
The ninth and final choice that happy people implement into their lives is truthfulness. This is the choice to be honest with yourself and others – not allowing others or yourself to violate your internal contract. This means we have to listen to ourselves. Each of us marches to our own drummer. This is about bringing to our conscious awareness our hidden desires, feelings, fears and thoughts. If we bring it to our consciousness, then we can be aware of what is driving our intentions. Be truthful to your self.
So as we experience the ever-changing days right now and find ourselves listening to the news or wondering how the economic downslide might hit us, it is a good opportunity for each of us to practice going through our days with the intention of being happy. After all, at the end of the day, we can either have had a good day or a bad day, and it was entirely up to us which one we experienced!Tags: choosing to have a happy life, nine choices for happiness, setting intention, setting intention for happiness
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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