Is happiness really a decision?

Why You Can Choose Fortune (With Eight Ways To Go From Today)

Being happy is a choice, not the result of success or possession, argues Calvin Holbrook. However, maintaining a good mood takes work. Here are eight ways that can help you with this.

This article was originally published in the English happiness magazine

You might imagine the editor of the English-language happiness.com magazine as jumping out of bed every morning after a good night's sleep with a grin on his face and starting the day full of great intentions. You will be forgiven, but I can assure you: this is not the case! In fact, most of the time, happiness is more of a choice for me than my natural state of being.

Like all of us, I am not always happy either (let's be honest, that would be just too strange). In reality, for me, authentic happiness does not mean the absence of negative feelings such as sadness and pain. For me it means the ability to experience a wide range of emotions while trying to appreciate and focus on the positive things in my life.

According to the psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, about 50 percent of our natural happiness level is genetically determined (our so-called target value of happiness). I think my own target value was naturally in the lower part of the scale. But with a lot of practice I was able to move it upstairs over time. I had to keep making the decision to be happy, even when my situation and circumstances told me otherwise.

Choosing to be happy also means working on it all the time. Because it is not a matter of course to be happy. In fact, I had to exercise to have happier thoughts. Like millions of other people, I too had to struggle with phases of depression and anxiety. I have had periods of debilitating panic attacks and constant brooding that have affected my sanity and happiness.

In doing so, I learned that these problems shouldn't determine me or my mood. In fact, I can still see happiness as a choice despite everything, but it takes focus and effort to stay positive (and of course professional help or medication when appropriate).

Happiness leads to success, not the other way around

Most people go through life thinking that if they succeed or something good happens to them, they will get happiness and contentment. For example, a raise in salary or 100 new likes on your latest Instagram post. Large parts of the population do not know that happiness is a choice, but go through life with the expectation that if they only achieve the right goals, happiness will fall at their feet.


50 percent of our happiness target value is genetically determined - which means that we determine over 50 percent ourselves!

Ralph Marston once said: “Happiness is a choice, not an outcome. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. Nobody will make you happy unless you choose to be happy. Your happiness won't come to you. It can only come from you. "

Science shows that the kind of instant pleasure doesn't make us really happy (at least not in the long run). In fact, there is no such thing as a magic pill to find happiness. However, one thing is sure to be required to increase wellbeing and that is work. Job? Oh dear! I'm afraid of that. But because happiness is a choice, that choice must be worked consistently with effort, care, and dedication.

In fact, I believe that the crux of the matter is the work that you have put into your happiness. You have to be open to being happy. You have to make it a priority, focus on it, and stay as disciplined as possible, even on those dark and difficult days - especially those dark days!

If happiness is a choice how can I work on it?

It sounds incredible, but there are surveys that we make up to 35,000 conscious and unconscious decisions every day. Starting with seemingly insignificant things like choosing food and clothes to bigger things like who you love, how you spend your free time, whether you move to another city or quit your job.

Some of our choices turn out to be great, while others don't. What all these decisions have in common, however, is that they are based on our deep desire to be happy.

These decisions are part of our “life activity”. As mentioned earlier, our genetics account for roughly half of our perceived happiness. The rest depends on our circumstances (10 percent) and this so-called "life activity" (40 percent).

“Happiness is a choice, not an outcome. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. ”Ralph Marston

While we cannot always control our living conditions, we have more control over our life activity. And if this life activity is to be responsible for nearly 40 percent of our happiness, we can focus on making better decisions here to increase our happiness. In fact, we can even choose to choose to be happy!

Okay, I'm starting to hear what you might be thinking: All of this is easier said than done. Life is hard. Sometimes things go bad. Something comes up. That's right, we are going to see many challenging things in life. And we know that the only certainty is change and that we will always encounter difficulties and upheavals.

But that doesn't mean that all life is bad, it just means that life isn't easy. Yet happiness does not come from your circumstances or situation. Happiness comes from a choice you make within yourself.

Learn how to choose happiness

As I said before, to be happy, I have to work on it all the time. Actually every day. I had to train my brain to choose happiness even when my life circumstances spoke for the opposite. I believe I have increased my natural happiness setpoint by doing certain "happiness enhancing" activities. If you're struggling to pinpoint the core of your happiness, incorporate these eight science-based tips into your daily life. If you stick with it and put some real work into it, you should see results soon and feel happier.

1. Choose gratitude and the sunny side of things

No matter how bad life looks, there is always something positive to focus on. It could be the fact that you have a place to live, something to wear, or something as seemingly obvious as the eyes and legs that carry you. There are many people in the world who don't have these things.

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Since happiness is a choice, start by finding things in your life that you are grateful for. It can also be seemingly small, more general things that we often take for granted. For example, the smell of cut grass or the sound of the ocean. If you write these things down in a gratitude journal, you can further cement your happiness. Every day, try to write down three things that you are grateful for. Studies have shown that this increases optimism, decreases anxiety, and chemically positively changes the brain.

2. Choose to think positively

Try to live by the saying “a silver lining”. Obviously, it's easier said than done to focus on positive thoughts and reduce negative thinking, but try the following technique: Every time you have a negative thought and become aware of it, replace it with a positive one. This practice helps you to train your habitual thought patterns in such a way that you bring more positive thoughts and thus happiness into your life.


Seeing your situation from a different perspective will make you happier. If you've made a mistake - no matter how big - don't worry about it. Instead, try to focus on your past achievements and visualize happier times.

3. Choose a smile

Just turn that frown upside down! One of the most important figures in the field of mindfulness and meditation, Thích Nhất Hạnh, once wrote: "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy."

Studies have shown that too. Our smiles and other external expressions act as a continuous feedback loop. This can help reinforce our internal emotions. A study by scientists from the University of Kansas found that smiling during stressful activities can lower your heart rate. So if we smile even when we're down, we will gradually feel happier (and healthier). Try smiling at a stranger: because happiness is not just a choice, it is also contagious! Spread that joy.

Smiling lowers your heart rate - and it's contagious!

4. Choose kindness

When you choose to do kind or benevolent actions for other people, so-called happiness hormones are released. The neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for well-being and satisfaction, is increased. Endorphin levels also rise, leading to a phenomenon known as "helper high".

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Another physical benefit of kindness is that it can help reduce anxiety. Social anxiety is often associated with low positive affectivity (PA). This refers to the experiences a person had with positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness. A four-week study of happiness from the University of British Columbia found that those participants who deliberately performed kind and benevolent actions had a marked increase in their PA levels, which was sustained throughout the study period.

5. Decide on meaningful relationships

Research shows that happier people have thankful social relationships. We humans are a social species and need regular contact. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that loneliness reduces happiness. Recent studies show that loneliness can be just as detrimental to life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. If you want to choose happiness, you should choose good friendships. Even a brief positive interaction with a stranger can make you feel happier.

6. Choose to be more mindful

Mindfulness meditation is an easy way to increase your happiness. Start your day shortly after waking up with 10-15 minutes of meditation: The instant heightened inner clarity and focus you get prepares for what lies ahead.

Many studies have shown that mediation can increase levels of happiness by, among other things, helping to reduce stress hormones, shrink the part of the brain that controls fear, and end the constant brooding.

“No matter how bad life looks, there is always something positive to focus on. Since happiness is a choice, start by finding things in your life that you are grateful for. "

And Psychology Today meditation is the most powerful mental practice that has the power to change your setpoint for happiness. It makes you a happier person and literally rewires important areas of your brain so you can feel happier.

7. Make sense of it

Meaningfulness is a happiness factor that you can extend to your whole life. Whether it's volunteering, gardening, or political activities, activities with a purpose have been shown to increase people's happiness while reducing stress. A study by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people who engaged in such activities were 34 percent less stressed and 18 percent less sad.

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8. Choose to be satisfied

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt once said that "comparing is the thief of joy". In today's Instagram-dominated world, this is more the case than ever. A world where it is all too common, your money to showcase one's travels and other perceived successes or happiness on social media, especially among the younger generation, but if happiness is a choice, trying to compare it to other people will only lead to unhappiness.

Comparisons minimize your own happiness

Data from a 2010 survey of 19,000 Europeans showed that those who compared their incomes to others were less satisfied with what they had. The comparisons most detrimental to happiness were those where people compared their incomes to those of school and university friends (although we know money can't buy happiness, right?). Choose to be content with what you already have. Stop comparing your life to everyone else's: Spend less time scrolling your Instagram or Facebook timeline.

The conclusion to the luck decision

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they imagine.” And he was right. Happiness is a choice, but it is also a daily practice that requires time, effort, and commitment. If you follow our suggestions above, you should feel better soon. But if that still doesn't make you happier, take the time to think about your actions. Do you do the things that make you choose luck? Or do you let your emotions take control?

If you're trying to feel happier but stay down or depressed, see your family doctor or therapist for professional help. Happiness is a decision, and opting for help is also a good way to get started when you feel blocked. ●

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Written by Calvin Holbrook

Calvin takes care of the English happiness magazine and loves swimming, yoga, dancing and all vintage things. Find out more here.