Is happiness a choice? Can you become happy by choosing to be happy?
Two small studies by researchers Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon, reported in the “Journal of Positive Psychology,” suggest exactly that. The intention to become happy may be the key to being happy.
Does the explicit attempt to be happier facilitate or obstruct the actual experience of happiness? Two experiments investigated this question using listening to positive music as a happiness-inducing activity. Study 1 showed that participants assigned to try to boost their mood while listening to 12 minutes of music reported higher positive mood compared to participants who simply listened to music without attempting to alter mood. In Study 2, participants who were instructed to intentionally try to become happier (vs. not trying) reported higher increases in subjective happiness after listening to positive music during five separate lab visits over a two-week period.
What do you think? Is it possible to be happy just by intending to be happy?
We all recognize that there are circumstances and conditions that will make anyone and everyone unhappy. But are we forced to live in a state of emotional misery? Do we have a choice to be happy even when things are tough?
While in prison—not a particularly happy place—the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi the secrets of joy, contentment and happiness—and in one familiar verse he told them the power of thoughts and focus to become happy.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8, NLT)
If it worked for Paul, I think it will work for you and me!
So what are you thinking about today? My encouragement: Smile. Focus on what is positive and lovely. Turn on some happy music. Make a decision to choose happiness. Express gratitude to God. I can almost guarantee you’re going to feel happy all day.
Mark “M.K.” Gilroy is a veteran publishing executive who has acquired, developed, authored and ghostwritten numerous books that have landed on various bestseller lists. His first two novels in the Kristen Conner Mystery Series met with critical acclaim from national reviewers and readers. Both Cuts Like a Knife and Every Breath You Take were #1 bestsellers. His newest novel is Cold As Ice.