Where Logic Meets Love

Creating Happiness: Not Just in Your Head

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

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Creating Happiness: Not Just in Your Head | Faith Permeating Life

I've been thinking recently about the notion that happiness is an attitude, a mindset, or a choice.

Generally I've heard this contrasted with the notion that you will be happy at some point in the future, as soon as you [get married, get a better job, buy a house]. The idea of "happiness is a choice" is that if you haven't found a way to be happy without those things, then achieving or obtaining something new isn't going to substantially change your overall happiness.

And that's true, based on all the studies and articles I've read. You may get a momentary burst of happiness, but then you will go back to your baseline once the reality of marriage or the pressures of that new job or the maintenance of the house sets in.

The problem, though, with saying that happiness is an attitude or a choice is that it implies that you can't do anything to change how happy you are. It all has to be a shift inside your head. And that's not true.

One thing I've discovered through my happiness project is that although I'm not waiting for some grand future thing to happen and make me suddenly happy, I am discovering and acting on small things that make me happy here and now.

Happiness is a choice inasmuch as I choose to take care of my health, or choose to make sure I always have tea to drink at work, or choose to put an effort into staying in touch with my friends.

Happiness is an attitude that comes from building the habit of writing down something I'm grateful for every night and then thanking God for my blessings as I fall asleep.

Happiness is a mindset built over time as I set and meet small goals and show myself exactly what I'm capable of.

I think it's a mistake to completely separate the idea of happiness from the actual events of your life. Saying that happiness is all about your perspective or your attitude is akin to saying, "If you're not happy, it's because you're not trying hard enough to feel happy/think positively."

Changing how happy you are in your life isn't likely to happen overnight with some big life-changing event. It happens in tiny steps, by focusing on your priorities, making small changes, creating good habits, and setting and achieving small goals.

I wouldn't say that happiness is something you decide. Nor is it something that happens to you. I'd say that happiness is something you create.

Perhaps this isn't true for everyone, and some people can wake up one morning, decide to be happy for the rest of their lives, and make it so without doing a single thing. But for the rest of us, happiness and action are intrinsically linked.

What do you think? What makes you happy?


  1. Wow! I do agree with you whole heartily! We need to concentrate on the smaller things in life that often go unnoticed because we are so caught up in a bigger future oriented goal. We hurry too much toward the future and miss the present moment. I have a post about this at http://dkeller717.blogspot.com/2011/10/time-goes-by.html

    I'm following you blog now. I like what you stand for in your blog header.


  2. @Dave Keller
    Thanks, Dave! Glad to have you reading.

  3. I agree entirely with that notion. I studied psychology in college and one of my focuses was positive/happiness psych, so I've read every book and article on the topic. Here are some of the key points I've learned, many of which I'm sure you're familiar with... Having material wealth beyond the level of subsitence contributes little to happiness. Happiness is a effortful choice, as it goes against or biological instrict. Happiness from experiences and relationships are longer lasting than from purchases/things. Seeking little pieces of happiness in the everyday is more fulfilling than big future goals or anticipations. It really is a fascianting subject and I'm happy that it's something more people are becoming interested in and applying to their lives.

  4. @Erin
    Yup, I love reading articles about happiness studies! (OK, let's be honest, I love reading articles about any studies having to do with people... I'm a nerd.) I find it fascinating that people have all of these different notions about what increases and decreases happiness; that's one of the reasons I love Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project--she wanted to put all of the theories to the test in her own life. I've found it an incredibly rewarding experience to spend this year reflecting on (and acting on!) what makes me happy.


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