Holly Moon, Community Engagement Coordinator
About a year ago, I started making decisions to improve my happiness. I moved into my own apartment – a goal that was extremely important to someone as independently minded as myself. A few weeks later, I rescued a wonderful dog to keep me company. A few months after that, I switched careers to a path that I knew would make me happier and allow me to continue to make a positive impact on youth in my community.
However, life happens and things change. Sometimes sadness comes quickly and pours like never ending rain. Some of us have an easier time combating feelings of melancholy than others, but for those of us who struggle, even getting over the little things can feel impossible in the wake of big life changes.
The most proactive thing I found to handle unhappiness was to actively choose happiness whenever possible. To paraphrase American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr: It is important to accept the things we cannot change, find the courage to change the things that we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
Accepting the Things We Cannot Change
For me, this may be the most challenging part. I am a total Type A. I don’t like knowing that I cannot control a situation I am in or what is happening to me. However, dwelling on uncomfortable feelings of anger or sadness only perpetuates misery. When we learn to accept the things we cannot change, and when we stop clinging to anger and sadness, peace of mind can finally be found. We can learn to let go of what is painful and move on to what makes us happy.
Finding the Courage to Change the Things We Can
Change is more natural or comfortable for some than for others. I had long identified driving as something that made me VERY unhappy. According to a study conducted by Canada’s University of Waterloo and published in World Leisure Journal, the people with the longest commutes have the lowest overall satisfaction with life. I have endured a long commute to work/school the majority of my adult life, but lately, my hour-long drive to and from work left me tired and grumpy most days. About a month ago, I was finally able to move closer to work. Now, the five-minute walk to the office is a pleasant and enjoyable start to my day.
A simple move has changed my life for the better in more ways than I expected. I am able to eat much healthier, walk a lot more, get double the doggie snuggles, and I have someone to confide in daily.
While these changes are wonderful, this also meant that I had to find the courage to let go of some of my independence and compromise on many things – it has been completely worth it. I have found myself being noticeably happier in my day-to-day life in spite of the things I cannot change.
The Wisdom to Know the Difference
The line between things we can change and things we cannot is not always clear. Social and emotional learning empowers children and adults with the tools to manage their emotions. When people are able to step back from their emotional responses and evaluate a situation, they are better equipped to make good decisions in every aspect of their lives.
How to Choose Your Own Happiness
If you are struggling with finding your happiness, take a step back. Write things down. Evaluate what is keeping you stuck. Take the time to figure out if you really can or cannot make a change. From there, take conscious steps towards changing the things that you can. Even a seemingly small change can be a positive light in your life. If you want to be happy, choose happiness every day as often as you can.
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV, Lhamo Dondrub