Happiness is a Habit
“The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.”
- RL Stevenson
I was late leaving work, and I had a call coming up soon. As I reached for my bag sitting on my office chair, I felt stress awaken in my chest and start spreading into my head to get the anxiety thinking rolling.
But I caught it in time. I saw that I had a choice, that stress itself was a choice, and I instead chose ease, peace, and enjoyment. The stress wouldn’t have helped at all, and in fact it would have made my evening less pleasant, less fulfilling, and less effective.
We think happiness or a lack of happiness is a result of our circumstances - it’s not. Happiness is an outlook, a mindset, a disposition, and a choice. One powerful way to foster the habit of happiness is to learn to catch ourselves when we’re making the choice to not be happy.
Happiness is something to practice and something to get good at.
A friend and I have a weekly call scheduled. This morning he was late, and I began to feel frustrated. Again, the feeling seemed to start in my chest and then reach up into my head to add momentum to the thinking that reinforces the feeling.
I had plenty of great reasons to feed the frustration, but I had one much better reason to let the frustration fizzle out: I didn’t want to feel that way.
The frustration would’ve felt good in one regard (the way it always feels momentarily good to be justified!), but for me it’s a poison - it eats up time, energy, life, and love. Even if my reasons for feeling frustrated are really good reasons (aren’t they always really good reasons?), frustrated is not how I prefer to feel.
A happiness habit can be reinforced by understanding this crucial aspect of where our experience comes from: feelings are hardly ever a response to our circumstance and nearly always a response to our thinking about our circumstances.
Here’s my daily happiness habit:
Start my day with my morning routine. Wake up my body, “turn around” my shoulds and my negative what ifs, and create who I am going to be in my day.
Throughout the day, question negative feelings: “how do I really want to feel about this?” And question negative thinking: “is that true?” and “what’s a more generous, positive, or creative way to see this?” The sooner I catch the ship veering off course, the easier it is to get back on track.
Come back to my created intentions like a ship realigning course with the compass needle. I’ve got at the ready my big why - “elevating the well-being of all life” - and my daily intentions, like “ease, enjoyment, and love.”
Everyone desires to be happy one way or another. We’re just a bit backwards about how we think we need to achieve that happiness. We think happiness is a result of our circumstances - it’s not. Happiness is a habit.
In what ways are you fostering a Happiness Habit today?
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️
“The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson