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Is Happiness really a choice?


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I know that this post belongs to our Lounge section, but I did not want to block the new thread by DR about happy and sad poems as I noticed how many members enjoyed it and replied to it. :o

I could not sleep last night and started reading a book that had whole bunch of life quotes that I like.

So.... I came across this quote "Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response." ~ Mildred Barthel and it pissed me off! Big time!

Happiness is a conscious choice??? Are you kidding me???? What about people who weren't given the opportunity to make this kind of choice because of the circumstances that those people had absolutely no control over??? Depression, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Cancer, Heart Diseases, Deaths of Loved Ones, and other nasty stuff that most of us here are familiar with. I thought that this person was completely out of her mind when she wrote this quote. Looks like she lives in Lala land. If this is the case, I would like to get the address.

I like to post positive videos and songs and a lot of them about "Perfect and Happy World ". Most of us, including myself, often feel that we don't really belong to it because every day is a struggle for a lot of us.

But every day also brings Hope that some day, things will turn around and eventually we all be able to live our lives to the fullest.

I hope that this video, along with the song will not piss anybody off :). It did give me the hope that things can change, and maybe there is such a thing as Living a Happy and Fulfilling life and some of us, just haven't found it yet.

And as always, don't forget to maximize your screen for better effects! :)

P.S. I am a big fan of Kenny G because his music is not only beautiful, but I believe helps to find a balance in life,- something that we all need.

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Hey Lana :)

"Happiness is a concious choice, not an automatic response"

That has got to be the biggest pile of BS, I have read in a long while - no wonder it pissed you off - its got me peeved too.

for example......

Ok, so when you see something really ironically funny and for that brief moment ya cant help but smile or even laugh (even if in-appropriately so - ive got a warped sense of humour) How can that not be a automatic response ?

If like me you have lost all your children coz of the stupid laws that exsist in this country, lost everything and everyone that ever mattered to you - and it makes you go insanely unhappy. How can that not be a automatic response ?

Happiness is NOT a concious choice, that you get time to process, it just happens - its a emotion - and if your really lucky you get to feel it.

I love the link to 'its a wonderful world' - its a classic :o

Take care of you Lana


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I agree that happiness is an emotion and I think that some people, due to different life situations, can experience happiness in "different portions", and again, as an emotion (I hope that makes sense).:)

Sue, sorry, I was going to reply to your post but accidently accessed yours (I always press wrong buttons):o

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i'm going to play devil's advocate here. i think sometimes one can choose happiness.

it's not easy. this is a teeny tiny example: when i am down or feeling particularly anxious, i force myself to smile. i don't want to smile, i am not feeling happy, but i don't like being down or having anxiety control my life. so i put on the biggest fake smile you have ever seen. (i do this when i'm alone) it's the ugliest smile ever and i look like an idiot. sometimes it even hurts i am trying so hard. but eventually the message gets to my brain and i start to feel a little better. i start to not dread so much whatever it was i was feeling anxious about. it's not a cure, but it does help.

so in that case, i would say i'm "choosing to be happy" :D

i do agree however that it is (also) an automatic response as Sue has pointed out

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i agree that happiness is an automatic response to situations we cant control. same with all emotions. its like when im with my friend. i feel so happy when im around her. i also feel every other emotion there is and have a major anxiety attack but when im with her ive never felt happier. when im with her for long amounts of times all i feel is happiness. theres an example of happiness in my life. but at like any other time i just feel down. sure i have my happy moments. but she dominates my mind. i guess thats an example of how i really feel about my friend. i put on my mask in day to day life. a fake smile. a look of determination. looking like im ready to take on the world. even though under the surface im fallin apart. i just dont want people to worry.

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I love the song you posted. In my efforts to 'become happy', I decided to take up singing lessons. That was the song I picked to start with. It was an attempt to stay with the happy theme:).

I was NOT happy when I was telling my brother a half hour ago about the continuing disasters in my life that are still all unresolved and out of my control. I WAS HAPPY listening to that song. So I guess I can choose what I read, what I listen to, what I talk about, who I associate with and to some extent what I'm thinking. I used to go to a very bad place and get myself all worked up and in planning mode when I got suicidal. Now I just say, 'You're not going to do it, don't go there, don't go there, don't go there.' That helps. I at least give myself a fighting chance to be happy should something happen that might remotely change my mood after that.

I guess I could say I consciously decide to still be here on earth everyday. I consciously decide it's not acceptable to be so miserable so I continue to see my therapist in the hope that someday things will change. So, I guess the best I can do is to say 'I try to set myself up to be happy'. But I can't consciously choose to be happy at any given moment. At least not yet.

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  • 2 months later...

You guys and gals are all so wonderful. Let me give this perspective...

WHEN happiness is a conscious choice it becomes a personality trait. Almost like being blonde or having a good sense of humor. This kind of happiness stems from an inner peace derived from true appreciation and acceptance.

Happiness as an emotion is conditional and fleeting ie. I'd be happy if it stopped raining, I'll be happy when I get a good job or I'll be happy when there's world peace. These are conditions that we put on our happiness and when they come to pass we find a new "when". If they don't come to pass then we give ourselves permission to be unhappy using that as an excuse.


In the last 15 years I have lost a home I owned, gotten a divorce, had 3 miscarriages, lost 3 children (through DCF) to a physically abusive ex, gave birth to a 4th child between 4 hurricanes, moved a dozen times, crossed the US twice, lost most of my belongings and a beloved cat in a house fire that left me homeless, had back surgery and developed fibromyalgia as well as discovering that my BF is sociopathic and my son has Asperger's. There are of course other minor changes that have occurred but you get the gist.

Despite all of these things I remain a happy person. That does not mean that I don't suffer bouts of anxiety and self doubt or even depression and it doesn't mean that I don't feel stress. What it means is that I have learned to embrace those things as a natural part of life; of who I am. I am not happy to be stressed, I simply accept that sometimes I have to stress to appreciate being happy.

The tide goes out. The tide comes in. If you can find something, even the smallest thing to be happy about when the tide is low then you have made a conscious choice to be happy.

IN AGREEMENT- To say that happiness in general is a conscious choice is calous and insensetive. The statement makes it sound like there is something wrong with you if you don't choose happiness.

Love to you all and may you find the silver lining in all that you experience.:D

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  • 2 weeks later...

My opinion is that happiness is a choice once you get within an ear's shot of contentment. You don't have to have cleared up EVERYTHING, but you do have to have nearly everything in its place.

I spent at least 15 years so far away from happiness mentally, physically, and socially that there could be no choice. Sometimes I was happy anyways, but I couldn't maintain a happy state for very long at all, and often it was clouded by other things in the back of my mind.

These last 8 months where I've finally come within REACH of being able to take control of my life has shifted me to a position where I can make a conscious effort to be happy. Now I can dwell on female friends of mine getting fucked by their boyfriends (well, only one of them I could say I'm actually jealous of), or I can think about a date I have planned and with the momentum I'm reaching I probably can even do better. If I'm feeling really bad I can think about the last girl I dated and how I didn't want to give up my virginity to her.

Anyways the point is I spent a long time a LONG ways away from being able to CHOOSE to be happy, you will know when you're within range of that choice, but it's true you can spend a lot of time without a choice.

Hell, depression wouldn't be classified as a disability and all that if there was a choice. You can get to a point where nothing you do 'inside your head' will help, and for me meds didn't even help. It took time and baby steps.

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I think happiness as a trait can be a choice, but it is a choice like losing weight or learning to be good at math:

  • It's more than just making a choice, it takes commitment, work, and time.
  • It will be easier for some than others. Some may find it next to impossible, while others find it simple and easy.
  • It may take some coaching.
  • There will be failures, disappointments, and mistakes made along the way.

Just my thoughts. I used to be pretty vehemently against the concept that happiness was a choice because I suffer depression, but that was when I thought the idea was to "snap out of it" by thinking positive. Now that I'm doing some work to get better, and making some progress, I think it's something that I'm not very good at naturally but with professional help and enough time I might get better. At least I have to hope for this or there would be no point in getting help in the first place.

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  • 1 month later...

All of these views are valid. Happiness is made of human beings and our thoughts and actions because we are the only ones who make it. And don't tell me that your dog is happy. Did you ever think that he/she behaves that way not because he/she is happy but simply because he/she is not unhappy? Animals are content to exist and behave within their instinct parameters. I assure you that a life without the bond with you would be just as satisfying as long as the animal had food, shelter, and stimulation. I don't mean that you could or should abandon your pet, I simply mean that in a very broad, general sense. Because your pet has been your pet you have trained them to rely on the affection that you give and that bond is important to them and to you.

Now about happiness being a choice. Just because something is possible does not mean it is easy to do. Somewhere inside myself, in my darkest moments, I am happy (laughing in fact). Not because I am an idiot but because I love to learn and there is a lesson in every strong emotion be it positive or negative. We are made stronger by every thing we succeed at and from everything in which we fail. If you were never unhappy then you could never fully appreciate being happy. If you never touched fire you would never truly understand what HOT was. When you stop thinking about happiness as a tangible achievement and see it for what it is which is something more etherial and elusive but all around you like the air that you breathe then you will make the choice to open yourself up to the experience of happiness.:)

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