Happiness is a Choice, Not a Reaction

March 19, 2010 Aimee White

So often I hear others talk about how they will be happy when they get a house, have a baby, get married, finish school; the list goes on and on. If money makes people happy, then why are there so many successful movie stars struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, torn families, and failed marriages? The reality is happiness is something we choose, no matter what our current circumstances are in life. It's something that happens on the inside of us, not from something happening on the outside.

I love the following quote:

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

--Brian Tracy

happinessIsn't that awesome? Controlling our attitudes may require a change in our current behavior. Instead of being reactive in our emotions, we can pause and think about how we want to handle a situation.

Here is an example- two people are stuck in traffic. One person is upset, cursing and angry thinking about how this is ruining his entire evening. Definitely not a happy camper. The other person, in the same situation, can think about how they can try out their new CD that they haven't heard yet, or may call a friend to catch up on how they are doing while they wait it out. Same scenario, two different reactions. One upset, one happy.

Choosing to Be Happy

I think there are a lot of people out there that will be unhappy no matter what blessings they have in life because they choose to be victims of their surroundings.

With anxiety, we can easily fall into that snare. With all of our trials and roadblocks, we can choose to be victims and feel sorry for ourselves and take the road that can lead to depression and unhappiness, or we can choose to change our attitude and be happy anyway. Selena Richardson, coach and editor of Creative Possibilities says this:

"It's not wrong to feel angry or upset, but dwelling on it and letting the anger simmer for too long can have bad results. Choosing to be happy after you realize your anger has shown up (or even choosing to be calm) can be beneficial. You end up acknowledging your anger and moving on instead of harboring those emotions until there's a flare up. We choose our feelings, no one can do that for us. If we let others get to us, influence our emotions - we are giving them power over us. When others cause us anger or pain, we are giving them our power. Remember that we can always choose happiness. At first, it will be difficult to just switch your thoughts and feelings from anger, self-doubt, or fear to joy and happiness. But it is only a thought away."

I challenge you to give this a try. I know I am going to try harder to be better at choosing to be happy. Do you have any experience with this? Any tips or examples of how choosing to be happy made the situation better?

APA Reference
White, A. (2010, March 19). Happiness is a Choice, Not a Reaction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Aimee White

Philip Kavanagh
September, 7 2010 at 3:12 am

Happiness is a choice but being able to make that choice is not always so easy. Each of us, as an individual, has a set of physical attributes as well as psychological attributes and over the course of our lives we learn to deal with the objective world in which we live in our own certain way. We feel the hurts and slights of life differently in each individual case.
Seeing the positives and being contented would be the ideal way to live and would probably bring happiness to us but must be balanced against the need to interact with all the people around us. To do that, we must use critical thinking and it wouldn't always be right to accept everything in our lives just the way it is playing out.
Some aspects of how people treat us or we treat them are intolerable for any number of reasons and it wouldn't be right to be contented with them. On the other hand, I absolutely agree that a simple way of living a simple life is a great way to seek to be happy.

September, 6 2010 at 3:56 am

It's true that happiness is a choice. One can choose to be lonely, angry or happy. One must have to see the good things about something, rather than looking for the negative things it can give. I believe that for every situation there are things to be happy about. We just have to be contented with it. But if we will always look for more and more, then we will not be contented or happy with it. We just learn to be simple, simple way of living.

July, 31 2010 at 6:45 am

Having a major depressive disorder is not condemning yourself to a life of misery. Remove the word "yourself" and perhaps it would be truthful. In fact, the person doesn't want to be sad at all, let alone choose to be sad.
As a person with major depressive disorder, I've spent a month trying to achieve happiness. Yes, like Linda said, I can choose all I want to, but this illness will always come for a comeback. And I agree with Roger. Fighting this illness by "choosing" happiness is like swimming up the Niagara Falls.
My depression is probably the result of the kind of life I've been living as a teenager -- life where I'm pushed around, where I desperately try to fight back but oftentimes fails and will be pushed back further, and in the end if all else fails I find escaping or hiding from my problems as the only solution. As a victim of bullying and harassment, as well as a person with social phobia and AvPD, it was NEVER easy.

Natasha Tracy
July, 12 2010 at 6:47 am

Again, you are completely speaking from the perspective of a person without a major depressive disorder. I have bipolar and I can honestly say that I don't "choose" depression, or mania.
In Linda's case her life circumstances may have been the trigger that brought on a mood disorder, but that doesn't make it any less real.
It's important that people with medical disorders know that their problem is not medical. It's not fair for you to berate someone for having a medical issue.
- Natasha (author of Breaking Bipolar)

July, 12 2010 at 3:21 am

You have two choices.
You either make a decision to keep using your loss as an excuse to spend the rest of your short time on earth in misery.
Or, you recognise that nothing that has already happened can be changed, and that feeling sad won't bring your brother and father back.
Instead you decide that there are still things that you want to achieve, things that excite you, things that make you smile and feel alive. You remind yourself everyday that there are still people who care about you deeply (and if there genuinely isn't, realise that it could be this negative attitude that pushes them away). Decide to see the beauty in nature and the satisfaction of living a life for others, and doing positive things in the world. Get out the house, try something new, do something epic for charity, volunteer, join a group or club with a mutual positive interest.
All the while you say you don't have a choice you are condemning yourself to a life of misery.
It's up to you.

Aimee White
March, 25 2010 at 4:16 pm

Roger and Linda,
I appreciate your feedback on this post. I agree that people who suffer from major clinical depression would read this and laugh. I didn't write it with you in mind. I am hoping to help people who do not suffer from clinical depression that have more of a say about their emotions. Many people that have anxiety have depression as well, but there are also many that don't. Because I do not have depression, I wouldn't dream of trying to tell you how to feel better.
Linda I am so sorry for your loss.

Linda Foster
March, 24 2010 at 10:31 am

The person who wrote this has obviously never suffered from Depression. I'm not talking about having a bad day. I'm talking about Major Clinical Depression. The kind that changes the chemicals in your brain. The kind you have after your brother and father both committ suicide in one year! I would love to be happy again. I was always a happy optomistic person before this. It's been 10 years but I am still depressed. I can "choose" all I want to, but it doesn't make it reality.

Roger Dutton
March, 24 2010 at 10:22 am

If it was as simple as that, there would be no such thing as major clinical depression -- or at least it would be rare. Choosing to be happy when in the throes of endogenous depression would be like swimming up Niagara Falls; no matter how hard you swim you ain't gonna make it.

Paula Byerly
March, 23 2010 at 9:29 am

I am daily grateful for my good fortune in being born in America, having a wonderful home and family and friends, being free from danger and war, being free to worship, etc. However, I am extremely unhappy about the homeless, sick, people who are suffering because of natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, floods), people who live in war areas because of America's invasion of Iraq, people who are starving because of civil wars and government corruption, and the state of the environmental degradation. How can a person be truly happy with the world being in such a mess? Is it wrong to be happy when millions aren't? Comments?

March, 19 2010 at 7:21 am


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