Happiness and Choices
“If you get lost in a trigger that thrusts you to a painful event, take a deep breath and remember: we can’t change that we’ve hurt before, be we can choose not to suffer now.”
~Lori Deschene, Founder of TinyBuddha.com
I perceive happiness to be a choice. It can be as much of a choice as deciding what pair of jeans to wear in the morning, what song to upload onto your iTunes, or what Italian restaurant to dine at on a Friday night.
If we can easily succumb to the negative emotions of hostility, jealousy, anxiety, or sadness, why can’t we turn it around and decide that in the present moment we want to be happy?
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses the “happiness set point,” in her book, The How of Happiness. She suggests that 50 percent of happiness is genetically predetermined, while 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40 percent is the result of your own personal outlook.
She cites strong evidence and research for the genetic “set point,” which comes from a series of studies with identical and fraternal twins. However, Lyubomirsky does argue that despite a certain “set point” one might possess, there is always room for improvement; if certain individuals do seem to be low on the ‘happiness gene,’ there is no reason to raise the white flag and carry on in gloom.
“Although on the face of it, the set point data appear to suggest that we all are subject to our genetic programming, that we all are destined to be only as happy as that “programming” allows, in actuality they do not. Our genes do not determine our life experience and behavior. Indeed our “hard wiring” can be dramatically influenced by our experience and our behavior… Even the most heritable traits like height, which has a heritability level of .90 (relative to about .50 for happiness), can be radically modified by environmental and behavioral changes.”
Echoing Lyubomirsky’s stance on our free will to evoke happiness, Emily Giffin’s novel, Love the One You’re With, illustrates how life and love are the sum of our choices, and it’s never too late to embark on another path to attain peace of mind. The female protagonist, Ellen Dempsey, is happily married to Andy Graham, but when she runs into Leo, a past love, on a New York City crosswalk one consequential afternoon, she’s torn between loving the one she’s with, while not being able to forget the one who got away.
As the storyline unfolds it becomes clear that although the main character is settled into a certain life, a certain routine, she can still choose the road she wants to be on. It’s a perfect read for the young woman who does struggle between loving two people and who must make the choice to be with the person who is the right fit.
Sometimes we tend to let our emotions get the best of us, and we may surrender to a negativity spiral, so to speak. It’s certainly easier said than done to shed unhealthy thought patterns, but we may have a lot more control over our mental state than we realize; we have the power of choice.
“The past is over. What happened happened,” Lori Deschene stated in one of her blog posts. “Today is a new day, and freedom comes from seeing it with new eyes. It comes from recognizing what’s going on in our minds, and then choosing to release those thoughts and feelings. We all deserve to feel peaceful, but no one else can do it for us.”
Suval, L. (2012). Happiness and Choices. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/11/happiness-and-choices/