“Happiness is a choice.” This simple product of new age thought and the positive psychology movement is absolutely profound. It suggests that we humans are not simply the manufactured products of some environmental assembly line, but that we play an active role in our own well-being. It’s incredibly empowering to realize that one doesn’t have to watch helplessly while the people around us and the circumstances we face decide our fate.
The idea that we are in control of our own happiness at first feels absolutely liberating – this control seems to unlock the possibility that we can hypothetically be happy all of the time. However, this freedom brings with it the immense responsibility of securing our own well-being. The upside to the idea that you’re at least partially dependent on others for joy was that it meant that you didn’t have to worry so much, satisfaction was out of your control. So now, having been suddenly handed the reins, all we do is worry.
The cleverest among us are preying on the epidemic fear of sadness, holding the promise of happiness in front of us like a carrot on a stick. Wear these clothes and then you’ll be happy, read this book or blog post and then you’ll be happy (sorry), work harder and make more money and then you’ll be happy. These predators have created a culture of viewing satisfaction as a goal, as something you have to work towards and earn, because it motivates you towards their goals. Working to achieve happiness disgraces the original idea of choosing happiness, it’s absolutely antithetical to its message. Choosing happiness is simply an attitude change. It’s not something we do in a span of years, or months, or days, but rather a choice we make in this very moment. Stop trying to be happy and just be happy – right here, right now.