Contrary to what fairy tales and media influences might tell you, happiness doesn’t just “happen.” It’s a choice. A conscious decision.
A choice we make each day when we wake up; a choice we make when we decide how to react to certain information/situations; a choice we make before we go to sleep each night. Much of what I learned during my year of cognitive behavioral therapy was related to this: how we can control not only our actions, but our reactions to situations/people/circumstances.
And though it isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s wholly appropriate to drown our sorrows in a bottle of Malibu rum (not that I’ve ever done THAT … haha — flashbacks to my earth-shattering at the time freshman year break-up …) or several pints of Ben and Jerry’s (did anyone else see this supremely awkward Daily Show interview with Robert Pattinson the other night?!) … The thing is, we’re entitled to grieve, mourn, be angry … but when all is said and done, we can still choose the “happy route.”
Sometimes this means taking the high road and thinking something … but keeping it to ourselves (“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything”). Other times it means addressing a situation head-on, even though you know it will cause conflict (recognizing the outcome is more beneficial for everyone involved than silence ever would have been). And other times, it means changing how we view something entirely — “reframing.”
Truthfully, I feel like that was the biggest thing I got out of therapy: the ability to reframe situations. Instead of thinking, “why me?” it became, “OK, what ABOUT me?” As in, I didn’t need to the victim in my own life’s play anymore. I could be my own heroine. When I chose pride over guilt, I was also choosing happiness. It was win-win for me as well as my family and friends
Which leads me to today’s deep thought: happiness is the absence of guilt.
Chew on that for a second. Happiness is the absence of guilt.
It’s a conscious decision to be happy; it’s something we choose to be, feel, live. It’s fleeting at times, and isn’t necessarily going to always be an ever-present aspect of our lives … but that doesn’t mean we can’t aim for it to be a big part of our existence. And when we let go a little and enjoy life, without the guilt of what I should be doing/could be doing in.this.moment. … happiness abounds.
I know this because I really feel like I’m getting better — albeit slowly — at living this mantra. Sure, sometimes I find myself berating myself for over-eating or eating something I “shouldn’t” instead of just listening to my body and what it is craving at the moment … if it’s anything at all. And sometimes I struggle to put my laptop down and just cuddle with Luis instead of blogging or paying bills, or put my camera away and focusing on Maya in the here and now instead of snapping pics of her for my family. It’s hard sometimes … but I’m a work in progress and I recognize how I feel after these moments in particular: GUILTY. NOT happy.
When I eat something I truly enjoy … there is no shame or remorse and the only words coming out of my mouth are positive ones. I feel happy, free from my disordered past. When I close the laptop and choose to snuggle, I can think of how warm and safe his arms feel wrapped around me. I feel happy. I remember our history and see our future. I feel adored. And when I put my camera away and sit behind Maya and watch her play — chubby hands stacking her blocks methodically — I can smell her just-washed hair and sweet baby skin … I feel happy. I feel protective. I feel love of the purest kind.
So today I’m choosing happy, and I’m hoping that the more time passes, the easier it is to choose happy with less thought. It’s really something that requires practice for some people — people like me who just always want everything to be good and rosy on their own. Sometimes, life takes work. Effort. Diligence.
But it pays off in the end. When we choose happy, only sunny skies are in the forecast. And at the very least, we can fake it til we make it.
How about you? How do you choose happiness?