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I was on Facebook the other day and one of my friends posted this image you see on the right. After their post they talked about how life may be difficult, but in the end your happiness is a choice you make. It's not something that 'happens' to you, it's something you choose to do yourself.
That is a very empowering statement! So why is this article titled, "Happiness is NOT a choice?" Because I don't think that really defines it properly.
I work with unhappy people all the time in my job as a medical hypnotist in Boise. Some of them are unsatisfied with work, or with a loved one, or they have emotional trauma that they just can't seem to get past. This manifests itself as anxiety, stress, and unhappiness.
To tell these people that 'Happiness is a choice' is disrespectful to what they are going through. Not only that, it doesn't match up with their current experience of life. In their world bad events have happened, and no amount of positive thinking will conjure up that emotion of happiness on command.
What is happiness really? Happiness is a skill.
I view happiness a lot like the martial arts. I've learned a variety of martial arts in my life, the current one I practice being Krav Maga. This martial art is based on real world scenarios with your goal being to defend yourself quickly and disengage to safety as efficiently as possible. Life is a lot like this.
Every day you run into things that impact your mood. Someone cutting you off on the way to work. Your boss being angry at you. Even something as random as stubbing your toe. All of these things have the potential to change your emotional state.
You can learn certain techniques, strategies, and philosophies that make those minor life annoyances practically non existent to you. Barely even on your radar. Those same skills of mental resiliency will help to transform a catastrophic negative event into something more manageable. Something that doesn't crush you into oblivion. Yes it is still bad, but you can recover.
These are skills that will consistently make you happier a greater percentage of the time.
It's just like the martial arts. When was very new and I began sparring, just about anyone would mop the floor with me. I would get punched in the face, kicked in the thighs, and would leave the class with a bruised body and ego. Through practice and dedication I became better at the fundamentals of defense and better at protecting myself. Soon I found myself no longer losing sparring matches, but actually winning them.
I've been practicing martial arts for over a decade, and I would say I am a good fighter. I am good at defending myself. I have acquired that skill. That doesn't mean I'm invincible though, there are still people out there bigger, stronger, and more talented than me. What it means is that for most situations I encounter I can handle myself and I no longer get beat up in a sparring match like I used to.
The same goes for that skill of happiness. There are always big life problems out there, but by learning some of these strategies of happiness you can become skilled at creating happiness. Skilled at being happy. Little things just won't bother you any more, and those big traumatic events won't seem as insurmountable.
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