Sunday, May 17, 2009

Choose Happiness

Lately, I've gotten caught in the trap of thinking that joy and happiness are something that are supposed to be bestowed on me by some sort of external force, blessing or circumstance. This is something I've blogged about before, so if you want all the reasoning for why happiness is internally generated, you can read that. (And, if you don't believe me, check out this Freakonomics blog or this Cracked article.) Today what is really on my mind is what DOES make us happy.

There are many studies out there, I am sure, which go into the specifics of how to raise kids happy, whether happiness is genetic, whether religious people or political people or whatever are more happy. But, since I am fairly fixed in all of the above factors, those studies have little bearing on my disposition.

Instead, I have discovered that happiness and positivity are a choice. It comes down to what we choose to tell ourselves about our circumstances and how we look at things.

Here's a confession: I get road rage. I don't know if it's my competitive side, or just leftover anger issues from when I was a child (I threw tantrums and stuff... those aren't really acceptable anymore, so I just take it out when I drive, maybe?), but I definitely road rage. (For anyone who doesn't know me... I'm really not an angry person. In fact, anyone who knows me doesn't believe I road rage until they witness it firsthand.)

Anyway, there is pretty much one freeway that connects my house to the rest of my life (work, parents' house, friends' houses, etc.), there are no side streets I can take to avoid it, and it's under construction. Construction which makes the drive home from work mind-numbingly slow. Any number of factors can set me off on the drive home, and I often arrive home completely stressed out from the drive.

However, seeing that this was a growing trend, I decided to see what happened if I just chose to look at the situation differently. "Okay, Julie, there's nothing you can do to make this traffic move any faster. You are not in a rush, and there is no benefit to arriving home even 5 minutes earlier." As patronizing as I may be to myself, it actually works. Nothing external changed, but the way I saw the situation changed.

Our circumstances really have little bearing on our disposition. We can blame them for our disposition, and many people will probably understand. But ultimately, we are the ones who need to choose how we see life and how we frame our circumstances.

Going into this week, I choose positivity. I choose to stop stressing over the construction on the Whitemud. I choose to appreciate that the snow tomorrow morning will save me from watering my lawn. And I hope that by making these small choices, it will become a habit to choose positivity in the big things as well.

1 comment:

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