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Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

You’re struggling to find this elusive thing called “happiness.” Most days, you feel either overwhelmed, anxious, angry, depressed, or flat. Or, maybe you experience quick shifts of mood.

You can remember times when you were happy, but they seem distant, and your life circumstances are different now.

But what if I told you that you can actually choose happiness? And, that it’s easier than you think?

In this article, I’ll break down the basics of how you can lead a happier life, just by following a few basic principals. These are easy to implement in your own life, which means happiness is just around the corner!

Ready to find out more about how and why happiness is a choice? Let’s dive in further to gain a deeper understanding.

Happiness Isn’t an Idea, It’s an Experience

The idea that happiness is a choice seems to be just that, an idea, and one that doesn’t apply to you. How can you choose to be happy when someone has treated you so badly, when circumstances beyond your control are bombarding you with pain?

Many people feel this way.

Each year, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report.

This measures the overall happiness of different countries. The 2018 report finds that residents in Finland rank first place, while the residents in the United States are all the way behind in 18th place.

Despite the fact that Americans’ incomes have more than doubled since 1972, we’re not even in the top 10 of happiest countries.

Understand the Easterlin Paradox

Americans have continuously made more money, yet we’re not reporting an increase in happiness. This disparity between income and happiness is called the Easterlin Paradox.

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Chances are you see more money now than you ever have in your life, yet you’re still trapped in the paradox, struggling to understand why you’re unhappy.

What explains the paradox?

The answer to this question can help you understand what happiness is. Solving this dilemma seems complex — it is a paradox, after all. Yet the answer is a lot simpler than you might expect: happiness is a choice.

It’s as Simple as Choosing Happiness

Happiness is a state of being that you can seize, such as when a runner takes in air with her lungs. Each inhalation is essential, and with every inhalation, exhalation must follow.

If happiness is a state of being, then you could say that happiness is simply an experience, or a set of experiences.

Amanda Pinnock is a college student at Arizona State University who experienced this type of happiness without ever expecting it. To earn her degree in global health, she needed to do a study abroad program, but she was worried she was going to be disconnected from her group as a nontraditional student earning her degree online. [1]

To her surprise, the other students in her group were inclusive and eager to connect. Then there were the locals in Fiji, the country she’d chosen for the program. They seemed to truly understand how happiness is a choice. According to Amanda:

“Fijians are probably the happiest and humblest people in the world. They welcomed us with open arms and made sure we were fed and had the accommodations we needed. It wasn’t until I talked further with the group leader and tour guide that I realized they were giving us more than what they have for themselves on a daily basis.”

Plenty of Fijians don’t have running water, but Amanda noted that they felt they lacked for nothing. She says:

“They live off the earth and they all help one another … They may not have had nearly as much money as an average American, but they are wealthy in their lives, and I think Americans can learn a lot from that. It really put into perspective what’s most important: family, loved ones and the environment.”

For the Fijians Amanda encountered, happiness isn’t a concept, it’s the act of supporting each other.

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Happiness is the act of finding joy in everyday experiences with other people.

Communities of people who give to each other and share the value of generosity, the value of love—a love which expects nothing in return—are the happiest.

That’s why, according to the World Happiness Report, generosity and social support networks are two key factors that lead to happiness. [2]

Every second you’re alive and conscious, you have choices to make. Amanda Pinnock chose to experience another culture even though she was worried about fitting in. She was happy to share the experience with the other students and the Fijians that welcomed them.

Each day of your conscious existence you can choose to support others, to accept their support, to engage in activities that are good for you.

All of these acts will bring happiness. You can choose to trust others and do things that help them to trust you. You can choose to build up the community around you and be a part of it.

The Art of Sisu Can Change You

In Finland, famine wiped out 9 percent of the population during the 1860s —hardly an event that would engender happiness. The Finns have made a point of recovering by embracing a philosophy called sisu, which is a shared value of grit, determination, and rational action, even when life is painful.

Sisu is also about powering through exercises that are challenging and uncomfortable, such as taking a swim in an ice-cold river, running a marathon, or biking to work in the rain. [3]

According to This Is Finland, “Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity … Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when at first there seems to be none.”

Sisu is simple: seize life, do it with courage, and build your courage by engaging with the world in challenging ways.

Be Proactive in Your Happiness

You can be happy by being proactive. People who choose to recover from addiction choose to take proactive steps toward recovery.

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You can think of choosing to be happy as choosing to recover from depression. As it turns out, exercise benefits recovery in a number of ways:

● Exercise imitates the effect of drugs on your brain (or rather, drugs imitate
the effect of exercise) by releasing endorphins.

● Exercise helps you sleep better and increases feelings of well-being.

● Exercise helps you cope with stress, structure your day, and improve your
physical fitness.

This lines up very well with sisu, although sisu asks you to take it to another level and challenge yourself beyond your comfort level.

Even if you don’t take it to that extent, start small and exercise on a regular basis, then build up to greater challenges. Work on making connections with other people based around your exercise routine.

What the Buddhists Know

Buddhism is particularly concerned with cultivating happiness through constant practice.

First, Buddhists acknowledge that existence lends itself to pain and mental dysfunction. This is the wear and tear of the world that comes from desiring and expecting what you don’t have.

Buddhists follow a set of practices towards enlightenment:

Clear the mind of negative thoughts: Recognize negative thoughts, redirect
them positively, and act on positive thoughts.

Practice mindfulness: Without applying judgment, contemplate how your
body feels and pay attention to your breathing; pay attention to your own
thoughts; pay attention to “phenomena” — the world around you.

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Meditate and concentrate: Let random thoughts go while you’re sitting and
concentrating on one single thing, such as the sound of water, your breathing,
or a humming sound.

Have compassion: Personal happiness is directly related to the happiness of others. Contemplation of others and their suffering leads you to a place of true compassion, and compassion for others is a simple path towards happiness.

Buddhists choose to live neither in the past or future.

Thoughts of the past can bring brooding and depression, and thoughts of the future can bring anxiety. Contemplation of the present and compassion for others in the present can help alleviate depression and anxiety, freeing your mind to accept happiness.

People choose many creeds, philosophies, and religions in the pursuit of happiness. In any situation, you can choose to concentrate on what makes you happy.

You can choose to accept the most excruciating challenge as an opportunity to be good now and to create happiness.

Make the Smart Choice of Happiness

Happiness is finding joy in everyday experiences.

When you choose to include other people in your happiness, then with it comes community—in both social networks and shared experiences.

Happiness is the smart choice because deep down it’s what your being strives for; it’s what other people want, too.

When we’re choosing happiness together, we’re choosing to care for each other, and the whole world opens up to infinite possibility.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Arizona State University: Find Yourself by Getting Lost
[2] World Happiness Report: World Happiness Report 2018
[3] This is Finland: Sisu Begins Where Perseverance Ends

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Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

40 Ways to Achieve Peace Of Mind and Inner Calm

40 Ways to Achieve Peace Of Mind and Inner Calm

Do you have racing thoughts and find yourself constantly worrying? An anxious mind is truly distressing.

The good news is, there’re simple things you can do to calm your thought.

If you want to achieve peace of mind and inner calm, try these 40 simple powerful ways:

1. Listen to Music

Studies have found that relaxing music can help kids with ADHD to be calmer and focus. But it doesn’t matter what genre of music you want to listen to, as long as you enjoy it and it makes you feel relaxed.

Music is food for the soul and an instant way to gain peace of mind.

2. Deep Breathing

When you focus on your breathing, your mind’s attention is drawn to the life-enhancing process of drawing in air and exhaling.

Take five long, deep breaths and focus on your lungs and diaphragm as you do this. This is a quick and easy way to instantly feel calm.

Here’re also 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly).

3. Go for a Walk

Getting out in the fresh air can do you a world of good and promote peace of mind. Take a break and get the blood pumping – especially when the sun is shining.

4. Enjoy Nature

Too much concrete is never a good thing. Spending time in nature can actually make you feel younger, happier. Here’s why.

Spend time away from the city. Listen to the birds singing and enjoy the peace and tranquility.

5. Play with a Pet

Having a pet to play with is a great way to de-stress. Touch is a powerful sense and can ease tension and promote peace of mind.

6. Declutter

Have regular clear-outs. Clutter can add to feelings of tension and a clean, clear home allows a clearer, more peaceful mind.

Take a look at this article and learn How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster.

7. Acceptance

Acceptance is crucial for peace of mind. Accepting that there are few guarantees in the world and learning to tolerate uncertainty is a huge leap in the peace-of-mind stakes. Differentiate between what you can and cannot control.

8. Mindfulness

When we are mindful, we are fully present in the moment and acutely aware of our five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell.

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Engage your senses. This leaves less time for your mind to worry and think about “what ifs.”

Here you can learn about The Power of Mindfulness.

9. Self Love

The more we like ourselves, the greater our peace of mind. We accept ourselves more and feel at ease in the world, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. We experience less insecurity and as a result, our inner peace is heightened.

Start trying these 30 Ways To Practice Self-Love And Be Good To Yourself.

10. Be True to You

This is another vital component of peace of mind. When we practice congruency, we behave similarly to the way we feel and think. When the way we see ourselves and the way the world sees us is the same, we are practicing congruency.

Problems arise when we see ourselves one way (for example, as a loving mother) but behave in ways that are at odds with how we would like to see ourselves (for example, neglect our children because we are too busy). Finding ways to keep our inner ideals and the way we behave similar is one of the keys to peace of mind.

Find out How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want.

11. Sense of Humor

Laugh a lot. The world is instantly a better place when you can see the funny side of life. Laughter is a great antidote for stress and releases hormones that help us relax.

12. Love Unconditionally

When you don’t expect anything back, it makes it easier to love without fear. When we love with conditions attached, our unmet expectations can create inner turmoil and feelings of resentment. Insecurities destroy peace of mind.

13. Go for Regular Health Checks

It pays to keep checks on your health and look after yourself. Letting ourselves go can indicate a lack of self-respect, and this in turn will affect the way we see the world and the way others interact with us. Be kind to yourself and make the most of what you have.

14. Take Stock

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to check whether you’re happy with the quality of your life. Do you like your job? Your relationship? Are you on the right track? Make adjustments if necessary to restore peace of mind.

15. Have Goals

This ties in with number 14. Goals keep us going in the right direction and give us a sense of purpose. Make your goals SMART: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

16. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

This relates to number 11. Learn to be more flexible in your approach to life. The more rigid our thinking is, the easier it is to experience situations that contradict our rigid ideas.

17. Live in the Moment

Instead of worrying about the past or panicking about the future, really enjoy the NOW. It’s all we have — this moment in time.

When we live in the present, the concerns of the past and future can’t worry us.

Here’re some tips on How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future.

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18. Worry Less

We apparently have somewhere between 30,000 – 75,000 thoughts per day, of which 80% are random “nonsense.”

Learn to “shelve” worrying by reminding yourself that most of your worries are unproductive and remove any chance of peace of mind.

Some advice for you who worry often: How to Worry Less: 90% of What You Fear Won’t Happen

19. Be Assertive

You have as much right to be here and to have an opinion as anyone else. When we become passive or submissive, we do ourselves a disservice.

Being assertive isn’t about your needs ahead of others (aggressive) or their needs ahead of yours (passive). Rather, it is about compromise —  a “win-win” situation.

Learn How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way.

20. Speak Your Mind

Don’t be afraid to say what you’re thinking. This goes hand in hand with being assertive.

Ask for what you want in life. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

21. Enjoy “Me-Time”

Time out is important. A little bit of selfish time to treat yourself or do exactly as you please sets you up for taking on the constant demands of life. Balance in life is crucial.

22. Frolic

The free online dictionary describes the word “frolic” as:

“To behave playfully and uninhibitedly; romp.”

All work and no play will stress anyone out. Make time for things you enjoy. Try to inject fun into situations that aren’t particularly enjoyable. Approach life with a playful attitude. When did you last let the child in you come out to play?

23. Let It Go

There are some things that you just cannot change, no matter how hard you try. Know when to cut your losses and detach (Just like Elsa does!)

When you start to let go of your past, these 10 things will happen.

24. Resist Guilt

Guilt is a negative emotion that removes peace of mind. Although it can motivate us (in the wrong way), it is still a toxic emotion.

Challenge the reasons for your guilt to make sure you aren’t placing unnecessary pressure on yourself.

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25. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Focusing on all the things in our lives that we are grateful for promotes peace of mind and reminds us that there are always positives. Sometimes we just have to nudge our awareness.

Try these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

26. See Failure as a Learning Curve

Failure has such negative connotations, but actually, everyone fails. How can you improve or learn anything if you never fail?

A healthy attitude towards failure encourages bravery. It’s not you that is the failure, instead it is what you tried that failed. There is a big difference.

27. Connect with Others

One of the true joys of life is sharing life with others and knowing that others “get” you. We feel less alone and feeling understood allows a fantastic sense of well-being.

28. Test Your Limits

You’ll never know your true potential if you always stay in your comfort zone. As the old saying goes, it is better to look back and regret what you did than regret all those things you wish you’d tried.

Learn to step out of your comfort zone: 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear

29. Find Positive Outlets for Negative Emotions

Sports, online forums, like-minded people, hobbies…whatever takes your fancy. Suppressing negative emotions can lead to ill health. Release tension and frustration in a pro social way and feel a whole lot happier.

30. Slow Down

Why does everything need to be accomplished today? Often, we place unrealistic pressure on ourselves when there is no need to.

Challenge your impatience, be mindful and enjoy life in the moment.

31. Challenge Your “Shoulds” and “Musts”

Self-induced pressure never leads to inner tranquility or peace of mind. Replace “should” with “could” and live life more on your own terms.

32. Be Kind

It’s free and it makes a difference. When we show kindness, it gives us an inner boost, too.

You can try these 29 Ways to Carry Out Random Acts of Kindness Every Day.

33. Don’t Compare

The more we compare, the more we lose ourselves.

Forget what everyone else is doing or saying. What do YOU want? We all have our own paths to follow, and we are all learning and going through life at our unique pace.

Focus on your own journey and lose the stress of comparing yourself to what you think is going on in the lives of others. This is a surefire way to eliminate peace of mind.

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34. Affirmations

Talk to yourself positively by using affirmations. A good example of one that encourages peace of mind is: “No matter what comes my way, I will find a way to get through it.”

Believe in yourself and remind yourself regularly that you will be okay.

Need some more inspirations to affirm yourself? Here’re 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

35. Save a Little Money as Often as You Can

Putting money aside is always a good idea. If you can afford to save money regularly, do it. Start up a regular debit each month, and you won’t even realize it’s gone.

36. Less Is More

Money buys choice, but it doesn’t buy us the happiness we crave. Be content with the simpler things in life — that’s where the real long-lasting joy and peace of mind comes from.

37. Perspective

Always  keep your eye on the bigger picture. Will you feel this way next week, or a year from now? Will your current experience of life seem as important?

More often than not, you will be just fine. Foster peace of mind by maintaining perspective in life.

38. Monitor Your Thoughts

Our thoughts can make or break our quality of life. Make sure to choose thinking that works for you.

Talk to yourself as you would a best friend. Self-loathing serves no purpose and will undoubtedly extract joy from your life.

39. Stand up for What You Believe In

Whether it’s protecting animals or helping those less fortunate than yourself, follow your heart and your passion. Fight the urge to fit in and do what’s expected.

When you change yourself to suit others, you give away your peace of mind.

40. Get Enough Sleep

When we’re tired and grumpy, nothing goes smoothly. Get eight hours of sleep per night and regenerate your body.

Final Thoughts

The most important ways to achieve peace of mind involve being true to yourself, accepting that life is uncertain and watching your thinking. Many of us mentally “torture” ourselves daily with the things we tell ourselves.

Trust your thoughts less, pay less attention to the negative ones and focus on what you are thankful for in life, and you’ll be well on your way to inner peace of mind.

Featured photo credit: sean Kong via unsplash.com

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