If you are reading this post right now, you must be wondering is happiness a choice.
The answer is a definite yes.
The even better news is that the author of the book Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, has told us that there is no upper limit to happiness. Not just we can choose to be happy, but we can always be happier.
So let’s first put aside whatever we are feeling right now. instead of asking ourselves are we happy? Let’s ask ourselves a more helpful question – “How can I become happier?“
The 4 Behavior Patterns
Before we jump into how can we be happier, let’s first look at which behavior pattern you are in right now.
The author has explained 4 behavior patterns in the book. We demonstrate the behavior patterns in multiple aspects of life, including our pursuit in life and our relationships. Which group you are in determines your current level of happiness.
Let’s see which one you see yourself fitting.
Rat race – forsake the current happiness on pursuing the ultimate goal that supposedly would make you happy.
Nihilism – extreme pessimism and skepticism about life and showing no interest in anything.
Hedonism – believes that only pleasure is worth pursuing, constantly chasing the high, but all these pleasures are not lasting.
Happiness – unlike the other 3 quadrants, both present and future benefits are being enjoyed.
Many of us are in the rat race quadrant. We are constantly setting goals for ourselves, working towards one milestone after another, and working in a job that doesn’t give us pleasure. The reason we are holding on is that we believe firmly that we are working for a brighter future, and your motto is ‘No pain, no gain’.
Is this really true?
Do you really feel a tremendous amount of joy when you reach that goal?
The joy we experienced will only last for a short while.
So how can we land in the happiness quadrant?
How can we enjoy both today and the future?
How can we choose happiness, and live happier?
The author gives us the answer.
Now we have this goal in mind – to be happier. Let’s start to build a few rituals in our life to work towards our goal.
1. Do the things that are challenging and meaningful
Here I want to reference what the author has said, “Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”
We are actually born to constantly face challenges and improve on ourselves. Constantly staying in a state where we feel happy and comfortable is not good for our growth and wellbeing. All the activities that can give us long-term joy require us to experience some emotional discomfort or difficulty.
This is different than the rat racer state where one falls into endless pursuit. In the happiness state, the progress itself is challenging but enjoyable.
Just like the concept of flow.
Flow is a state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity. We may all experience the flow state at some point when we are deeply focused on the activity, such as when we are solving a puzzle, or taking part in a sports game.
There are many benefits of a flow state. People will feel more clarity and happiness when they are in the flow state. The happiness we enjoy when we are in the flow state is not temporary but can be a long-lasting sense of fulfillment.
In order to reach the flow state, we need to find the balance between challenge and skill. We need to do tasks that are neither too easy, nor too difficult.
To understand flow better, I highly recommend this Ted Talk by Prof. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi.
I have mentioned meditation in a few posts. Practicing meditation can reshape our brain, and also help with our obsessional thinking.
The key of meditation practice is to help us to live better in the present moment and enjoy everyday living, while not worrying.
Practicing 5 to 20 minutes of meditation and focusing on positive emotions can help us to better regulate our mood.
Here are a few detailed guided meditations I have previously written that you can follow along.
3. Daily journal
Keep a gratitude journal daily. Write down the things that make you feel happy and grateful.
From the nice food you eat, or a kind word people said to you.
When you are writing, recall the happy emotions you feel. Let the feeling of happiness flow in you.
Keeping a gratitude journal will also cultivate our sense of gratitude. Gratitude itself is the real meaning and pleasure of life.
Writing is the best natural remedy for our daily emotions and mental wellness.
If you do not know how to start with daily journaling, I have prepared a mindfulness journal for our subscribers.
It’s an all-in-one mindfulness journal including a gratitude journal and affirmation journal. You can download it by subscribing below.
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Besides the habits mentioned above that can help us to be happier, the author further gives his insights on a few topics:
- Why happier people are more successful?
- How to have happier relationships?
- How to enjoy your job and find a job you love?
- How to increase our ‘want-tos’ in life and reduce on the ‘have-tos’?
- How to do reframing and get children to like study?
It’s a refreshing read with framework and practice along the way. Happier is definitely one practical and insightful book that gives you some takeaways in life.
Happiness and unhappiness are like 2 sides of the coin.
If you have been following this blog, you will know that most of the content I wrote is on mental health topics. I always do believe that whatever we are going through right now is not necessarily suffering. It’s just a reminder and a prompt that we need to make some changes now. It’s the start of a new beginning.
So even if you are feeling unhappy now and you are questioning can I choose to be happy, it’s all a good start.
It leads you to start seeking the path to happiness, and if you continue to pursue this journey and work for it, you will definitely meet your lifelong happiness.