For a long time now I’ve been both inspired and a little frustrated by all these beautifully designed images all over Pinterest that say things like “happiness is a choice” and “choose joy!”. I think that’s a wonderful idea, but I want to know exactly HOW to make this choice. Give me a step by step process for exactly how I choose happiness on a day like today when it’s 10:45am and it’s raining so hard it looks like 10:45pm!
But then I realised that the other day I chose happiness without even realising what I was doing. On Sunday as I was drifting off to sleep and dreading my first alarm wakeup call in two weeks, I actually managed to convince myself to be happy about it. And it worked! I woke up happy about getting out of bed, going to work, and living my nine to five life. Here’s what I did:
I ran through all the aspects of the next day that I was dreading and told myself “actually, it’s going to be great”. Obviously I wasn’t convinced by this, but I started to imagine in detail what it would be like to be excited about getting up early and going to work.
The more I imagined what it would be like to feel happy, and even excited about it all, I realised that that imagined feeling of excitement was actually a genuine feeling. The fact that I imagined it into being didn’t seem to matter. On a practical level I know that my dread of waking up and going to work wasn’t about the fact that I hate my job and the life I’ve chosen for myself because I know I don’t. I just hate early starts.
Taking some time to imagine myself waking up feeling rested and cheerful about the day ahead allowed me to visualise a happier me, and the more I pictured it the more I was excited about the idea that I could actually feel that way in the morning. I woke up the next morning feeling faintly cheerful, and when I remembered my last thoughts before drifting off to sleep I was reminded of that same happy feeling – and I was happy!
Essentially, imagination is the key.
To choose happiness, picture yourself as happy in your everyday life as it is, imagine what that happiness feels like.
For larger life problems I don't think that happiness can be as easy as just making a choice. And when it comes to serious issues like depression or anxiety I think it can be awful to say to people "you have a choice", because sometimes you don't.