Gretchen Rubin, a writer who started the Happiness Project, posted the other day on her Facebook page: Happiness is a choice: Agree or Disagree. Reading the comments was an enlightening experience for me. I tend to agree with the statement, mostly because you can make a choice to accept the circumstances in which you find yourself – in other words to accept the status quo, or you can make a choice not to accept them. If you choose not to accept your circumstances, do something about them – don't just wallow! In this way, we choose whether or not the circumstances of our lives allow us to be happy. Many people expressed the same idea, but some brought up the bugbear of unchangeable negative circumstances and physical/mental ailments that restrict our happiness. After thinking about it for the last few days, I have concluded that being happy is less about a euphoric feeling and more about a deep feeling of rightness; a contentment if you will.
I have suffered more than half my life with major depression. Even with medication, I tend to be more sad than most people I know. Despite this, I consider myself a "happy" person. Why? Because the really important things in my life – my husband, my son, my parents and siblings and friends, serve to remind me that I have been given great things. Right now I am finishing my doctoral dissertation. It's been very tough for us these last few years – my husband left a job that was enough, financially, for us to make it, but too much, psychologically and emotionally, for him to thrive in. This left us with great uncertainty in our income. I learned from this uncertainty that the important things are not what house we live in, but that we are here to live at all. It is not the car we drive, but that we have the ability to get where we need to go. It's not about what we have, it's about what we do with what we have. Five years ago, I made a choice to go to graduate school. It has led to great sacrifice in our family (I want a vacation!) but will soon result in my PhD. Has it been worth it? I think so.
So about happiness: choice or not? Absolutely. Yes, you will undoubtedly experience circumstances that make you feel unhappy. You may even experience physical or emotional ailments that make it hard to be happy. Someone once said bravery is not the absence of fear, it is perseverance in the face of that fear. Happiness is not the absence of negativity, it is perseverance in the face of adversity.
Thanks for reading.