Your Happiness Depends on You

We all want to be happy, yes?

We all want to make changes in our lives to that lead to more happiness than we currently have?

(If not, then you may be on the wrong blog. Might I suggest this instead?)

But, no matter how much we all want to be happier, how many of us are allowing our happiness to be dictated by things that are completely arbitrary, unimportant or out of our control?

I’ll make it easier for you—I am currently raising my hand. I have been an expert at letting my happiness fall to the whims of all sorts of external factors that have no right having anything to do with how much joy or satisfaction I get out of life.

It’s extremely easy to do. It’s also extremely easy to fail to realize you’re doing it. So, in the confessionalistic spirit of this blog, let me show you how many stupid mistakes I make in the hopes that it helps you see how not to make them yourself.


The Dumb Things I’ve Let Control My Happiness

Here are some of the things I’ve allowed my happiness (or lack thereof) to hinge on over the last few years (annotated list, as full list is redonk):

  • The weather.
  • The amount of sleep I’ve gotten.
  • My dogs getting sick/scared of thunder in the middle of the night and disrupting said sleep.
  • My husband’s social plans.
  • Other people’s social plans, and whether or not they include me (sometimes being invited is an annoyance, sometimes not being invited is an affront. Depends on my hormones and level of current craziness.)
  • How many comments my various blog posts are or are not getting.
  • How many emails I’ve received. (Sometimes too much is bad, sometimes too little is bad. Depends on my mood and the size of my to-do list.)
  • How much I’ve eaten/had to drink recently.
  • What I’ve eaten/had to drink recently. (Both bullet points, incidentally, being totally within my control.)
  • The amount of money I’ve billed clients for.
  • The amount they’ve actually paid me.
  • The amount of bills due at the current moment.
  • The size of my to-do list.
  • How quickly doggie fur balls take over my house.
  • The songs Pandora is currently choosing to play me.
  • How many @mentions I’ve gotten on Twitter.
  • The general tone of the Facebook posts my friends are posting today.
  • Whether my stomach pudge seems to be trending upward or downward.
  • What has come in the mail that day.

None of these things are important enough to have a say in how happy I am at any given moment. But it’s so easy to let them have control, because being reactive is easier than being proactive. Rising and falling with the waves in a dead float is easier than paddling doggedly in one direction, despite the tides and the choppiness.

But who wants a roller coaster of moods that rise and fall randomly based on which way the wind is blowing? You’ll never really be “happy” that way—at least not for very long. But if you take control of the reigns and resolve to choose your own happiness, then… well, then we’re talking.

Because happiness isn’t a mood; it’s a choice. (Tweet!) And it’s one you have to get to make every single minute of every single day. You can always reset. You can always right the ship.


The Way to Play It

Your happiness, like so many things in your life, is completely and totally up to you. No, you don’t have all-encompassing power over everything in your life, but you have power over how you choose to react to things.

External circumstances will influence your mood. We’re human. It happens. If you get sick and feel like poo, of course that’s going to bring you down. If some jerk on the road smashes into your car because they weren’t paying attention, you’re gonna be pissed. It’s only natural.

But, regardless of whatever shit is circling around your general vicinity, you have the power to frame your outlook. You have the power to say, “Damn, this sucks, but there’s no point being miserable over it” or to crumple into a ball in the corner and decide the rest of your day (slash-week, slash-life) is going to be crap.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: For me, one of these choices comes out the clear winner. It may not be easy to look at a shit storm and say “Fuck it, I’m going to be happy anyway,” but if the alternative is being miserable, then guess what?


I’ma Choose Me Some Happiness

So maybe we’re in the red this week because I no longer get steady biweekly paychecks. But you know what? I also don’t fall into a deep, day-long depression around noon every Sunday because I’m dreading the week ahead down to my marrow. That’s worth being happy about.

Maybe I’ve got too many to-dos and not enough time to to-do them in. But that means business is growing, and this whole cockamamie scheme to work for myself really is proving itself viable. That’s worth being happy about.

Maybe my husband’s Fibro is flaring up, but at least he’s got the chance now to rest whenever he needs to rest, to not have to push himself to the breaking point. If he needs several days in a row, it won’t destroy us because he doesn’t have a job to lose anymore. And—ups and down and all—we’ve found a way to keep the bills paid in spite of that. That’s worth being happy about.

There will always be shit storms. There will also always be those constant little gnats of annoyance and disruption that can make a day fluctuate wildly up and down on the “Am I happy now?” scale.

But when you see happiness more as an attitude you choose the face the day with, a deliberate reaction to your circumstances instead of an elusive “mood” that depends on them, then it becomes less elusive. Then you’re onto something.

Who are you depending on for your happiness?


Image:  Flickr

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  • You know I’m in complete agreement with you on this one! I find it’s easy to assign positive or negative value to circumstances that are neutral- it’s only my perspective that makes it good or bad in my own mind. A lot of the stuff I get bummed out about isn’t important in the grand scheme of my life- most of the time it’s stuff I won’t even remember in a week, certainly not a month, and definitely not a year!

    But having this awareness doesn’t mean I don’t let unimportant stuff get me down. Stuff like blog stats, lack of progress on my goals (for good reasons), plans not working out the way I planned them, etc., etc., etc.!

    Yeah, well, life is too short and too miserable when I’m miserable. It’s just not worth it to worry, stress, and mope over this shit.

    Huzzah to choosing happiness!


    • Huzzah indeed! The “grand scheme of things” perspective is definitely important. Little stuff will still get to us, but as long as we keep asking ourselves “is this really worth it?”, we can continue to kick that negativity to the curb until (hopefully) it becomes our default mindset to approach each day with a “what can make me happy now?” outlook.

      Always a work in progress, but one worth pursuing. 🙂

    • Hurray! for that “we assign + or – value to very neutral ‘situations’ ” observation, @chrystabairre:disqus, too!

      Digging into very old events that helped me write some truly yucky scripts, and finding that I tended to the “negative” for years and years… With new happenings, I don’t go there so easily, but if one of those scripts gets engaged, I have to notice that, and actively counter it.
      “A work in progress”, indeed, Cordelia! Cheers!

  • Juli

    Trying to remember this. I don’t know why it’s difficult (or seems difficult) to grab the “reins of my life/happiness”. Don’t I want to be the one in charge? I have been thinking about that a lot lately.

    • It’s so difficult, m’dear, because we are human. It’s not just a matter of saying, “Well, I’m going to be more positive now!”; we have to make that choice every single time we’re faced with a challenging/annoying/trying situation.

      Not an easy thing to do, but so worth it, and it’s an outlook you can train yourself into over time. I’m right alongside you trying to get myself more on that train of thought. 🙂

  • Love this. It’s so very true. There is no pursuit of happiness, instead there is proactively choosing to be happy.

    One thing that can sour my mood in a heart beat is my daily commute — an hour each direction!! And, I’ve come to realize that it can affect my mood the entire day! Since, I’ve recognized that I’ve put some things in place to help keep me upbeat including listening to audio books and leaving a bit earlier so that I’m not rushing around like a crazy woman.

    It’s been difficult some times to choose happiness, so I’m really trying to think of alternative things that can lift my mood when I do get in a crappy mood. Audio books is only one way. But, I also write down 5 things I’m grateful for each day. I listen to the Chris Rock comedy station on Pandora. It’s about finding what works for your and proactively implementing them. Thanks!

    • “There is no pursuit of happiness, instead there is proactively choosing to be happy.” Love that phrase!

      Oh, I hear you on the commute–I was once there myself (see: Your audio books/earlier schedule is a great way to cope with what otherwise is (unfortunately) beyond your control.

      Gratitude lists are another great way to shift your perspective. I try to wake up and go to bed each day thinking of a handful of things that are awesome in my life, to get things into proper focus. And never underestimate the power of comedy, Pandora, and other little tricks to boost your mood. You’re right; you just have to learn what your happiness triggers are and remember to implement them when things start to go south.

      Sounds like you’re on the right track, lady! Keep it up!

      • Oh yeah! Comedy is #1 for lifting my mood. I’m always listening to the Chris Rock Pandora station.

        Off to read your article before I head off on my hour commute today! Ha. Thanks!

  • Bob T. Panda

    You are absolutely right, but some days it’s really hard. I don’t know what I would do, if it wasn’t for pandas! I say “choose pandas! Huzzah!” Thanks Kelly!

    • I wholeheartedly agree. 🙂

    • P.S. I would like to join some sort of street protest (doesn’t matter what the issue is) with only the sign “Choose Pandas.” It seems universally applicable. 🙂

      • Bob T. Panda

        Ha ha! let me know when and where. I’ll be there with my sign! I am thinking of starting a nation (nay! world wide) group dedicated to performing random acts of PANDA! Huzzah!

        • Oooo, what constitutes “random acts of panda”? Cuppycake eating? General mayhem? Or just being all-around adorable?

          • Bob T. Panda

            definitely all those things you mentioned, but also I’m thinkng of starting a movement where I supply “panda stuff” like stickers and post cards, just little things like that to interested panda faithful. then if you are out and about and you see someone who needs a panda (and don’t we all at times) you just smile and hand them a sticker! you would be an excellent person to be the first member of this elite team, given your known pandish inclination. send me an email if you’re interested.

  • This was damn good. It’s always the posts where we bare our souls and show what we have royally fucked up that bring about the most growth. It’s a very strange, but effective form of therapy. (At least, that’s what I’ve found).

    I fully believe that we’re only in control of 1% of everything and that we need to nurture the shit out that 1%. Hapiness is absolutley a part of that percentage.

    I’ve actually had a few paradigm-shifting moments recently, where I’d feel like the day was shitty, and then I’d be like “Why the hell is today shitty? Because of [Insert shit that doesn’t matter]? Bullshit!”

    I can honestly say, thinking about things from this perspective has turned many bad days into good days.

    Killer stuff Kelly 🙂

    • Bonus points to you for the use of 3 variations of the word “shit” within one short affirmation statement! Just one of the many reasons you rock. 🙂

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  • Ebony Kween Burrowes

    I just wrote a post about this yesterday, still under review but I could not agree more. I have a list long like you of things that truly irk my spirit and energy but I know I am allowing it too. That just pisses me off even more honestly, LOL. Thank you for reminding me I’m not the only one!

    • Good timing! You are not the only one by any means. Keep reframing; it takes work, but it’s so worth it!

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  • Nadezhda Moskovkina


  • Wow – great timing, as usual!
    I was just beginning to wonder if *I* was some kind of crazy, since my mood seems to be so very up-an-down – sometimes within minutes… Looks like it’s more likely a mash-up of most of your bullet-points above.

    Thank you for these repeats, too – helps me to remember “where I was” and “how I dealt”, before my life felt like I was on the road in a handbasket… 😉

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