Choosing to be Happy, Right Here, Right Now

Someone once said to me they didn't feel that being happy was a choice. They felt that no one decides to have a bad day. That everyone starts the day choosing to be happy, but that things happened along the way that were out of their control. While I agree that things do happen that are out of our control, I must say though, that I disagree that no one decides to have a day other than a great one... We just may not realize that we are making that choice.

Unfortunately, I think we all, at times, choose not to have a happy day... Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously, as in when we choose to hold grudges, resentments, feel self-pity, etc. etc. That's when we are choosing through our thoughts and attitudes to have a bad day... for how can we have a great day when we are mired in self-pity, or seething with anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge???

So while you may not get up saying "today, I choose to have a lousy day", if you get up saying things to yourself like "I wish I could tell my boss to take this job and shove it", or "this or that or so-and-so really drives me crazy", or some other negative thoughts or feelings, then, in short, you are choosing to have an unhappy day.

Choosing to Have a "Not Happy" Day

Anytime we choose anger, frustration, resentment, blame, guilt, etc. etc. we are choosing to have a "not happy" day... Anytime we spend our time with our "inner chatterer" complaining about this and that, or about someone's behavior, or about any other thing that gets on our nerves, we are choosing unhappiness over happiness. Anytime we choose to "get even", or "talk behind someone's back", or do or say anything malicious, we are choosing unhappiness.

Now of course, I am not encouraging you to become a doormat and to accept behavior that is unacceptable. Rather I am suggesting that we take a closer look at how we react, and at how we may carry anger and resentment along with us for days and days.

innerself subscribe graphic

Just because we "fly off the handle" or get upset at someone's action, doesn't mean we had no choice. It simply means that we reacted before giving time to our "higher self" to step in with another response. But then anger itself is not the problem. It is fine to become angry at something. The problem really begins when we hold on to that anger and turn it into a finely honed wedge between ourselves and others.

Here are certain behaviors to look out for: Choosing to hold a grudge. Choosing to remain angry. Choosing to resent someone's behavior. Choosing to "show them" who's boss. Choosing to "pout". Choosing to delay forgiveness to "teach them a lesson", etc.

Being Unaware and Unconscious

What is the solution? The key lies in remaining aware in observing our thoughts and actions dispassionately, as if from the outside. If you were observing yourself, in the same way you observe a character in a movie you're watching, then many things would become clear. You would be able to "see" your behavior even before it happened, or at least during or after it happened.

A lot of times we react unconsciously -- we simply react without giving any thought to our reaction. We just react in anger in the spur of the moment, later to regret our words and actions. If we were conscious of our thoughts before we let them be translated into actions and words, then many things could remain unsaid.

It is hard, at times, to remain conscious throughout the day as our daily routines and habitual occurrences and aggravations take place. We may have become mired in old habits, old reactions, old perceptions. We may "always" get upset at our neighbor's barking dog, or at the blaring music, or at whatever. However often we have had an "automatic reaction" to an occurrence, we still have the choice of going off of "automatic" and going into "conscious mode".

Being Aware and Conscious

Choose to be Happy, Right Here, Right NowWhen we are in conscious mode, we don't react without conscious thought. We don't lash out at a rude driver, or a inconsiderate co-worker, or an inattentive mate. 

When we are in conscious mode, we seek to understand rather than just react from hurt, resentment, and frustration. We take a few additional seconds to look at the situation from a "higher" perspective. Perhaps that rude driver who cut you off has a personal emergency, perhaps he just got fired and is reacting The understanding doesn't make a situation "right", but it helps us react differently. It may help to remember that when we get angry or upset, we are the ones the anger affects the most. We end up with the headache, or heartburn, or ulcer, or cancer, or simply feeling unhappy in general.

Sometimes we are affected by things without even knowing what they are. Perhaps we had a dream that eludes our conscious memory, but it has affected how we feel. Perhaps we are simply feeling disappointed in general at the turn our life has taken, or perhaps the direction life on the planet has taken. Sometimes greater events than our daily ones color our moods. Yet here too, we can choose to react with despair and discouragement, or we can "look to the future" with optimism and choose to take positive action rather than fall into despair.

Life is an Ongoing Process

The key remains in "being aware" or conscious of our thoughts before we let them become words and actions. When we examine our thoughts as they "come up", we can make choices as to whether that is something we want to "turn into concrete reality" for ourselves. This is an ongoing process. It is not a decision that you make once and then can forget about. It is rather a decision that is made with each thought each minute of the day.

The great thing is that there is always a next chance to choose again. So even if you chose resentment today or this morning, as soon as you become aware of your choice (your mood), you can make a different choice. It is really quite simple, but it necessitates a willingness to let go of "being right" and let go of self-pity, self-righteousness, and all those things.

Yes, we sometimes tend to get "self-righteous" when we think we are right, and that stops us from choosing peace. But, since it is our choice, whatever we choose is OK. We can always choose differently, next time. And the next time is always now.

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on

Recommended book:

Happiness is a Choice
by Barry Neil Kaufman.

choose_happyBarry Neil Kaufman, therapist, author, motivational speaker, and founder of the Option Institute shows you how you can use the traits of happy people to change your life quickly, and easily. His shortcuts to happiness include: making happiness the priority; accepting your personal authenticity, the freedom to be yourself; learning to discard regrets about the past and worries about the future, and so much more.

Info/Order book. Also available as a Kindle edition.

Watch a video with Barry Neil Kaufman: Happiness Is A Choice: Keys to Happiness