Let’s face it, when you don’t feel happy being told you can “just choose happiness” feels like an affront to all that is holy. People can tell you how to choose happiness but it all seems like lip service or ignorance to you.

Others go unfazed by (or even empowered by) the same events that burden you, so you can see that opting into enjoyment possible. But how can they so blithely pass over such serious matters when even simple inconveniences set you off?!

Wonder, no more. The roadmap you need to understand how to choose happiness is right here. Bookmark this page and revisit often. Each step takes on new meaning as you evolve into the loving, joyful human you’re meant to be!

1. Feel your pain to end your suffering.

It seems, counterintuitive, but the biggest impediment to your happiness is your avoidance of pain. I get it, I do! You only want to experience comfort, happiness and even, *gasp*, joy! Who can blame you??  Everyone wants to reach those points. The problem comes when we reach them and become disappointed that they don’t last or, worse, miss them altogether because unhappiness is habitual and all we can see.

Ever have something great happen but “yeah, but…” all over it because it wasn’t it the timing you though it should be or it wasn’t a big enough of a blessing?? Yeah. That’s suffering. Suffering results from pain avoidance (read: denial).

Emotional pain, just like physical pain, is meant to alert you to a problem. Ignore it and that problem will fester and grow until it infects every single part of your attitude. That attitude will color every life experience you have without you even realizing.

Get beneath your angst with the Toddler Game in F.A.I.L.* to Win: 4 Simple Principles To Get You Out Of Your Own Way. Innocently ask question after question. What am I mad about? Why? Is that even bad? What am I afraid of? and so on. You’ll get to a point where something in you feels awakened. That’s the root pain. Tune into it. Ask it questions. Listen to the answers. Make any life adjustments you need to.

Most importantly make a commitments to listen to your pain moving forward.

2. Look for proof of happiness.

Attentional bias says you’ll ALWAYS find what you’re looking for in life.

Look for proof that your unhappiness is validated and you’ll find plenty of it. You’ll sit proudly in the sensation of being “right,” but you certainly won’t be happy.

On the other hand, you’ll have mountains of reasons to choose happiness once you go looking for them. The uncomfortable bit is this … you’ll have to face the fact that you’ve been willfully ignorant of many of these gifts all along. Isn’t that also evidence, however, that you’ve finally found the happiness ripe for the choosing?? It is if you choose to see it that way.

Your beliefs are built on feelings. –> Feelings are built on proof. –> Glom onto proof of happiness. –> Your belief will become that you are happy.

3. Keep happiness simple for awhile.

There are a lot of reasons you dismiss life’s obvious gifts (good health, great friends, steady job, etc):

  • They’re old accomplishments.
  • They came easily for some reason.
  • You worked hard for them but they’re not as important to you anymore.
  • To you, they’re imperfect in some way.

Telling yourself you SHOULD be happy because of these big gifts can lead you in the opposite direction. You may find yourself resentful of them or guilty that you don’t feel more grateful for what you have.

Instead, look for little blessings in your every day life. I once had a total depression turnaround kickstarted because my toast landed butter side up and it felt like a goddamn miracle. Remember you’ll find what you’re looking for. The itty bitty excitements lay the groundwork for incredible serendipities. You’ll enjoy the big gifts again, not because you have to but because when it was hard you CHOSE to be happy about the small ones.

Don’t wait for hard work to pay off. We only value what we’ve worked hard for. Look deeply at your inherent gifts where have they mattered most?

4. Choose (and re-choose) self-appreciation.

You bring a lot to the world. Don’t believe me? Just listen to your friends, they’ve been telling you for years.

Your inherent gifts have been so natural to you that without blood sweat and tears to attain them you never knew you could appreciate them.

Just because a personal strength is “just who you are” or “simply what you’ve always done,” doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

Keep track of who you help. Write down your strengths and refer to them often. When you forget how awesome you are, refer to your list and add “tenacious AF” because you’ve recommitted to self-appreciation.

5. Find purpose in your hardship.

…forging ahead when attaining your goals gets difficult.

…staying the course when it feels the hardest.

You learn… through the experience of…
Patience… …others’ being too slow in your estimation.
Forgiveness… …feeling wronged by someone or something.
Resiliency… …making, and learning from perceived mistakes.
Creative Problem Solving… …unexpected or seemingly impossible problems.

There are so many choose happiness quotes out there and they all relate to making unhappiness useful as a tool toward happiness.

Start with your built-in advantages from Tip 5 and consider how your current unhappiness could be an opportunity to build on one of those.
Think of strengths you’d like to have more of and do the same thing.

Within every hardship is the opportunity to learn and grow. Once you recognize that fact, choosing happiness becomes so much simpler.

6. Learn to receive.

When you choose happiness, happiness chooses you back.

If you’re out there looking for moments of joy, let them find you, too.

Like coins in a couch cushion a treasure trove of happy moments awaits, but you won’t find them unless you’re looking.

You’ll find happiness the moment you expect to see it everywhere. It shows up as tiny gifts (a compliment, a gesture, a heads up penny) that spark something within you. Receive them!! Nurture happiness’ humble beginnings with gratitude. Let larger happiness opportunities come your way (accept help, seize an opportunity, help someone else).

Let the reciprocity of happiness be your new default.

7. Slow down.

The biggest reason so many people don’t even know what makes them happy anymore is their own hustle and bustle.

Busy-ness is a coping mechansim during times of grief and heartache. When pain goes unaddressed for long periods of time being “too busy” for happiness becomes an unhealthy pattern.

Take a break, meditate, garden, journal, walk slowly … give your brain a chance to go deeply. Yes, you’ll find the pain you covered (as in Tip 1). Consequently, you’ll ALSO find the solutions toward healing as well.

If you need reminding of how to choose happiness when you don’t feel happy that’s ok.

Like all choices in life the results of choosing happiness are progressive. It will take multiple iterations. You’ll commit and re-commit to your new choice repeatedly.

The need to choose and re-choose happiness is normal.
Feeling unhappy is part of being human. So is feeling happy.
Returning to old, miserable thoughts/patterns is just a reminder to try enjoyment again.

Treat yourself like someone who is learning something new instead of like someone who should just, by magic, know these things. After all, that’s just a different “how to choose happiness tool” in your tool kit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing happiness in the comments. Have you been able to do it in the past? Do you see others choose joy in spite of their obstacles? How do you think they do it? Do you have a tip you wish I’d include?

If you need help with a painful past or a specific loss you can start a healthful grieving process in the privacy of your own home with Conscious Transitions: A Home Study Course In Grief & Growth. You’ll learn the tools you need for healing and build on that foundation with practices for personal and professional growth. Get started today!

Triffany is a Certified Professional Life Coach and Bestselling Author who teaches the tools and practices strong women need to get out of their own way.

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