Choose to be happy, come what may
The past year, my family has undergone a major trial in our lives. We have spent many days (and nights) in the hospital with my husband as he has undergone a bone marrow transplant in another city.
Throughout this experience, I have watched my family members remain optimistic, friendly and helpful toward others, and even happy! Happiness is a choice not a gift. We need to focus on gratitude and remember what is good in our lives. My family has inspired me as I have watched them choose happiness! They have inspired others to dance in the rain!
One researcher explains, “Happiness is not an accident, not a charitable gift from the universe. Happiness is about choosing to see the adventure in every moment, choosing to understand that there will always be a light after the dark, that there is always good in every situation and every person, no matter how grim things may seem. That's the key to happiness — choosing it.”
It's not an easy choice all the time, and it very well may be the last thing you want to do sometimes. When grief strikes, or when you just can't seem to catch a break, sometimes you just want to perpetuate the sadness. It's a natural response, but it isn't a required behavior, it's a choice. And choosing to be happy will make you a better, stronger, wiser, better person. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that up to 40 percent of our happiness is a result of our own personal outlook.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to believe that things make us happy, when in reality we create our happiness. Happiness is not about things. Happiness is about our beliefs, hopes, expectations, and reactions to what is happening around us.
My son traveled to South Africa this past summer. He had the opportunity to visit a shanty town in a remote area of the country. He explained that these people had nothing — they lived in little three-sided huts made of cardboard and tin, they had only a few small plates to eat on, no chairs, no electricity, no shoes, etc. My son said that these were the happiest people he had ever seen. They were friendly, they had smiles on their faces, the kids were laughing and playing, the adults were visiting with one another, and they offered to share their meager meal with the American visitors!
We have the opportunity to choose happiness each day. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that every minute we spend being angry or irritated is 60 seconds we lose being happy. We need to learn how to admit when we are scared, find the ability to laugh as we cry, have the confidence to ask for help when we need it, and the wisdom to take it when it is offered. If we do this, we have everything we need to have a happier state of mind.
Joseph B. Wirthlin has said, “The way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. When I was young, I came home feeling discouraged. My mother was there. She listened to my sad story. She taught her children to trust in themselves and each other, not blame others for their misfortunes, and give their best effort in everything they attempted. When we fell down, she expected us to pick ourselves up and get going again.
"So the advice my mother gave to me then wasn't altogether unexpected. It has stayed with me all my life. ‘Joseph,' she said, ‘come what may and love it.' I think she may have meant that every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don't sing and the bells don't ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.”
If you believe that only sunshine brings you happiness, then you haven't danced in the rain! Make the decision today to be happy — come what may and love it — dance!
Christina Hawkey is the executive director of the Arizona Western College Foundation. She can be reached at email@example.com.