I am sure you might have heard things like, “Happiness is a choice,” “Happiness depends upon ourselves,” or “Choose to be happy.”
The internet is filled with quotes like these and people keep posting them on social media.
But even though these quotes are mostly aimed at motivating people, we all know that they are not always correct.
It’s a misconception that happiness is always a choice and that we can be happy whenever we want. As such, these quotes overlook the complexities of human emotions and the factors that influence them.
So, why is happiness not a choice?
There are many internal and external factors that impact how we feel at any given moment. For example, if you get into an accident, you can’t be happy at that moment. Similarly, things like genetics, access to resources, environment, mental health, life circumstances, etc., play a huge role in determining whether a person can be happy or not.
Let’s take a look at these factors in more detail.
Your genes are the reason “you” are “you.”
What do I mean by this?
Well, your genes were passed on to you by your parents. And they determine a lot of things about you.
The color of your hair, your height, your eye color, the likelihood of getting certain diseases, your blood type, and so many other things about you are all determined by your genetic makeup.
Your genes can also determine your nature and personality.
For instance, if your father is a peaceful person who doesn’t like confrontation, the same trait might get passed down to you. Of course, this is not a guarantee, but it does indeed happen. The same might apply to happiness.
A study conducted on the genetics of personality showed that some people are born with personalities that allow them to have an “affective reserve.”
In simple words, it means that these people are able to cope better with life’s challenges and are able to stay happier.
So, we can say that some people have a natural disposition toward happiness, while others may struggle with it.
We have all heard a million times that money doesn’t buy happiness.
And to a certain extent, that is true!
I mean, you can’t go to a shop and say, “Give me one ton of happiness for this many dollars.”
However, as some people say, “I would rather cry in a Lamborghini than live in poverty.”
The point here is that access to resources has an effect on your happiness to a certain level.
I mean, if you are well-fed, live in a decent home, have a decent job, and you’re able to do what you love from time to time, you will be much happier than someone who doesn’t even get to eat properly.
Also, if you have enough money, you also have access to things like therapy.
This, alone, can have a huge impact on your psychological state as you can learn ways to remain happier in life through effective coping strategies.
Your immediate environment has one of the greatest influences on your happiness.
First of all, your surroundings when you were growing up matter a lot. If you happened to experience a lot of fighting between your parents or lived in a constant state of unrest, your happiness levels as an adult might get affected.
After all, you might carry the wounds of an unhappy child way into your adulthood.
Secondly, your current environment also impacts your happiness.
For example, if you live in a noisy neighborhood or have argumentative or nosey neighbors, that may disturb your peace. If you have to deal with jealous people, if you have frequent fights at home with your family, that too, will affect your happiness.
The same applies to the environment at your workplace. If you work in an uncooperative and hostile workplace with critical or judgmental colleagues, it will be very hard for you to be happy.
Also, you might not always have control over your surroundings.
At home, you might try, to the best of your ability, to keep everyone happy and content, but that might still not be enough. At the workplace, if every person is out for themselves, there is nothing you can do!
We all know that the circumstances in your life keep changing all the time.
Sometimes, things are bright and sunny and happiness seems like a permanent state.
At other times, life throws so many challenges at you that you just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, a lot of people say that we can choose to be happy even during the darker phases of life.
But ask yourself, is that really practical at all times?
Let’s say a loved one is seriously ill and is in the hospital. Can you really be happy at that time? Of course, not!
Similarly, if you get into an accident or face a crisis at your business, you can’t magically be happy even if you want to.
My point here is that there are many situations and events in life that are totally out of our control.
And you can’t expect someone to “choose” happiness during those times. It’s easy to say, “Hey! Your happiness depends on you. Don’t be sad!” But doing so is just impractical sometimes.
This is another obvious factor that determines your thoughts as well as your feelings.
If your mental health is fine, you will naturally be happier and more content with life.
However, if you are suffering from mental health issues, you will find that happiness eludes you.
There are many mental health conditions like anxiety and depression that make living a normal life challenging. If you have these conditions, you will find it hard to do even the basic everyday tasks. You may also lose all hope for the future and even your will to live may dissipate over time.
As you can see, this is a serious condition and no matter how hard you try, experiencing joy will be a monumental challenge.
In fact, if you’re going through a mental health crisis, and other people poke you for being sad or dejected most of the time, your condition may get even worse.
You might start thinking that there is something inherently wrong with you.
We are all social animals and our social circles matter to us a lot.
You might not always realize this but your social interactions have a huge impact on your emotions.
I mean, think about the last time you went to a party and you received compliments for your looks.
How did that make you feel?
You see, the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your interactions. And the quality of your interactions determines the quality of your emotions.
Just think about it for a second and that will make total sense to you.
I think the most common example of this is a happy marriage. If you have a strong relationship with your spouse, you will experience a lot of happiness. If it’s the opposite, we all know how that story plays out.
Also, when you have a healthy social support system, you can always rely on it in times of challenges.
When you have people who can help you and be there for you, happiness can be achieved even during challenging times.
But if you don’t, you will always feel like there is something missing in your life and that can be a pesky reason for your continued discontentment and unhappiness.
This is a no-brainer.
Your experiences, right from an early age, mold you into the person you are in the present. If you have had largely pleasant experiences, you will be a much happier and joyful person.
However, if you have been through highly unpleasant experiences, you might be a little more serious as a person.
I am not saying that this is always the case.
Many people heal from their bad experiences and go on to become very happy individuals.
However, there are some people who endure some really dark trauma. Things like bullying, harassment, distant parents, accidents, loss of a loved one, community violence, and so many other things can leave a dark imprint on your mind.
Depending on who you are, you may either heal from these past traumas or allow these wounds to remain for a long, long time. If it’s the latter, you will obviously find it difficult to be happier.
Your culture, religion, and society also have a remarkable impact on your thoughts and emotions.
For one, they shape your concept of happiness itself. You can check out the article I wrote on this very topic. In it, I gave an example of how Western cultures perceive happiness compared to Eastern cultures HERE.
While Western people equate emotions like cheerfulness and excitement with happiness, Eastern people equate emotions like peace and serenity with happiness.
So, if you belong to a culture or religion where you are taught that happiness is a scarce gift in life, you might be inclined to be less happy.
Also, there are cultural and societal expectations around success and achievement that can put immense pressure on you.
For instance, in a lot of Asian cultures, if you’re not a doctor or a lawyer, you are not considered too successful.
This can impact your happiness if you can’t get into these professions since you might live with the misconception that you are not successful!
You will also tend to overwork, which can reduce the overall quality of your life. Again, this will also impact your happiness.
Your personal values and beliefs get shaped over the course of your life.
And the types of values you have can determine how happy you are in life.
For example, if you are someone who loves and values independence, you may become really sad if you feel trapped in a relationship. Even if your partner happens to be a good person, you might not be happy with them.
Similarly, if you value honesty and integrity, but you are in a work environment that requires you to be dishonest for some reason, you might become conflicted.
This, too, can lead to unhappiness and discontentment.
No matter how hard you try, you just can’t bring yourself to experience joy.
This is another important factor that most people overlook.
You see, after every few years, we move to a different stage of life.
For example, you were once a kid, and then you became a teenager. Then, you started working, maybe got into a relationship, got married, had kids, changed jobs, and so on.
These are all different stages and milestones of your life. And they might affect whether or not you are happy. They can also affect how happy you are.
For example, older adults often face feelings of isolation. They also typically go through a lot of physical health issues. This can cause them pain and might reduce their levels of happiness.
Another common example is when you become a parent. Of course, this stage can bring a lot of joy to you, but it can also cause a lot of stress. There might be moments when you feel overwhelmed and might need a break. There might be times when your baby might get sick and that can cause a lot of distress.
Now that we have taken a look at some big reasons why happiness is not always a choice, let’s take a look at some effective ways you can be happier in life.
They might seem like trivial things, but remember, happiness often lies in the little things in life.
Also, you can adopt the following ways at your own pace and in your own time.
In your day-to-day life, while you are busy pursuing your goals and desires, you might forget about all your past achievements.
You might forget about the things, people, and situations that you are blessed to have in your life.
As such, you might feel like you haven’t done enough and that there is something missing in your life. This can cause you to be unhappy.
To counter this, you can practice gratitude.
This involves writing about all the things you are grateful to have. Every night, before you go to bed, you can go over a list of all your blessings.
As you write them down, feel genuine gratitude in your heart and imagine what your life would be without them.
You will instantly feel much better and value those things more.
You will also be reminded of the fact that you have already achieved much more than you know.
As I said above, we are social animals.
And it is in our nature to want to connect with other people and establish strong bonds with each other.
This is why when you have a healthy and supportive social circle, you feel much more secure and happier.
On the contrary, when you don’t have anyone to turn to, you might feel lacking and insecure. So, what can you do in this regard?
Well, you could spend more time with your family and take part in activities that bring you closer. You could hang out with your friends more often and build strong relations with them.
You could interact with more people at your workplace and get to know them better.
You could also join a sports team or a religious/spiritual group and make friends that way.
If you’re single, you might also consider dating someone. Just saying…. 🙂
Exercise is one of the best things you can instill in your daily life for much better physical, mental, and emotional health.
Time and time again, it has been shown that it boosts your mood, reenergizes you, enhances your motivation, and even gives you a sense of achievement.
If you exercise first thing in the morning, you can remain in a much better mental state throughout the day.
Also, the great thing about this is that you don’t have to do intense exercises.
Some light to moderate body movement is enough to help you reap the benefits.
So, if you don’t have the time to go to the gym early in the morning, you could do some yoga, jog for a while, cycle to work, play with your pet, dance, or even do some household chores.
If possible, you could also take the stairs at work!
We all know how horrible it feels when you don’t get a good night’s sleep.
In today’s world, where most of us are overworked and stressed during the day, the night is the only time we get to recharge and get some shut-eye.
And if you don’t get enough sleep or good quality sleep, the next day feels like torture. Forget happiness, you can’t even function normally!
As such, you should do everything you can to get enough sleep.
Make sure you go to bed at the same time every night. And put away your electronic devices at least half an hour before you sleep.
Other things you can do to increase the quality of your sleep are: sleeping in a cooler room, making sure no light enters the room, silencing your phone, avoiding eating just before bed, cutting down on caffeine, and so on.
Mindfulness is one of the best practices you can turn to in order to improve your mental health and your emotional state.
It is a spiritual practice that entails bringing your attention to the present moment. This helps you enjoy and appreciate everything you’re doing in the current moment.
This might sound like a trivial thing at first, but it has major positive results.
Regular mindfulness practice can help reduce stress and increase happiness.
This is because your mind is no longer stuck in the regrets of the past or the anxieties of the future.
You are able to live where it matters the most. You are also able to understand and appreciate the fact that you are surrounded by immense beauty at all times.
Overall, mindfulness fills your life with a lot of serenity and peace. And this, ultimately, leads to happiness.
Every person has a few things that they love doing.
It could be something as small as cycling or something bigger like maintaining a well-organized garden.
The idea behind a hobby is that you get to spend time doing something you find relaxing. It is an activity that gives you pleasure and takes your mind off of things that bother you. In a way, this is a great way to unplug from your everyday life.
So, in order to inject more happiness into your life, you could find a hobby that you love.
You could experiment a little until you find something you can enjoy on a daily basis.
Or you could find two or more hobbies and switch between them every now and then.
Examples include painting, playing music, collecting stamps, reading books, dancing, singing, learning a new language, and so on.
Spiritual gurus often say that a human being is at their best when they are in a state of giving. check our article about happiness and helping others HERE.
If you think about it for a second, that’s really true.
I mean, have you ever helped someone who was in desperate need? How did it make you feel? Did you feel a warm and fuzzy feeling inside?
That’s because when you help someone in need, your conscience applauds you for it. It also enhances your sense of purpose and well-being.
So, try to volunteer in your free time.
You could join a community initiative or take part in a local charity event. You could also donate things in your house that you don’t really need or use.
If it’s possible for you, you could also donate some percentage of your monthly income to your local charity.
Making a difference in someone’s life will definitely fill your own with more happiness.
In the modern world, we are busy all the time.
We are always moving from one task to the other and don’t even get a second to catch our breaths.
Sometimes, it is work responsibilities that we need to tend to and at other times, it’s the personal obligations that eat up your time.
In all this constant hustle and bustle, we totally forget that we have our own selves to take care of too! And this often leads to discontentment and unhappiness.
So, it is important that you take some time for yourself every day.
You don’t even need to do anything.
Just sitting in silence with yourself can be a healing experience. You could also take this time to nap and recharge yourself physically and mentally.
Remember, the most important relationship you have is with yourself. So, make your well-being one of your most important priorities.
Learning something new can be a great way to boost your happiness and confidence.
When you learn a new skill or take on a new challenge, you challenge your brain to think in new ways. And the brain absolutely loves this.
After all, it was made to think, you know! Anyway, this brain stimulation can lead to improved cognitive function, memory, and focus.
Learning new things can also give you a sense of accomplishment, which can spill over into other areas of your life and help you feel more capable and self-assured.
Finally, learning can be fun and rewarding, providing a sense of excitement and satisfaction as you progress and improve in your new skill or knowledge area.
So spend some time learning something new every day. It could be a new language, a new musical instrument, or even a new skill related to your work.
Setting goals is a great way to increase your happiness and sense of well-being.
That’s because goals give you a sense of purpose and direction in life.
Whether it’s a small daily goal or a larger long-term goal, working towards something can make you feel like you are doing something meaningful with your life.
Setting goals can also help you be consistent, focus your efforts and energy, leading to greater success in your personal and professional lives.
Additionally, when you achieve one of your goals, it definitely boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
This, obviously, makes you feel happier.
So, make sure that you always have a goal to pursue. One great way to set goals is to follow the SMART technique. This involves setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
Doing so will keep you on track and increase your chances of success.
I hope this article about why happiness is not always a choice and what we can do to get closer to being happy was helpful 🙂
Feel free to let me know what you think 🙂