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Is Happiness a Choice or Just a Fleeting Feeling?

Today I took a pause while doing a mundane task. I was putting clean laundry away when I noticed an overwhelming feeling of inner contentment wash over me. As someone who practices gratitude on a daily basis, this felt different. I was grateful for my small house I’ve moved into recently, grateful for my washer and dryer to provide me with clean clothes, and just grateful to live in a peaceful home. I literally felt awash in gratitude.

Sometimes we all spend the minutes of our life waiting… waiting for the biggies like getting that new job, promotion, moving into the new house, buying the car of our dreams or meeting that just right person that will lift our feet off the pavement and into the clouds… we wait in anticipation for the next thing to “make us happy.”

While of course there is nothing wrong with wanting more or something different in our life, the real question becomes can I choose to be happy without those things… or will I choose to be happy while waiting, or, have I bought into the “I’ll be happy when…” myth?

You may hear people in your circle lament “I’ll be happy when… my vacation comes due, or my kid moves out, or when I get over this illness… and yet, we have a choice every day about how we think (and therefore how we will likely feel) about each one of our circumstances.

I’m not talking pollyanna thinking but rather intentional thinking. We can wait for a feeling of happiness to wash over us when great things happen, however more beneficial is to engage in the practice of choosing your attitude even in challenging circumstances.

This is not something that comes natural to most of us- we are immersed in a culture of complain and blame.

However, when we practice the life skill of rising above our circumstances rather than being emotionally tossed to and fro within them, we can actually experience a more consistent inner contentment that surpasses the feeling of fleeting happiness.

Most of us sadly don’t have a lot of modeling for this. We didn’t see parents who showed what rising above our circumstances looks like- we didn’t hear them say things like “ I wonder what the life lesson is for me to learn here…” or “I will choose to be content even when…”

So, we have to learn to do this. We have to choose to practice it. And when we do, life generally goes better.

There will nearly always be circumstances beyond our control. Whether it’s tension or difficulty in our own families, job or business challenges, or broader concerns such as inflation, global warming, or other community and world problems, there is always something to be sad, concerned or frustrated about. That is the world we live in.

And… we can still choose our attitude. We can still look for the good. We can pursue pouring our energy into that which we can control or influence and we can choose our attitude along the way.

Today, find one thing to be grateful for and chew on that. It could be as simple as taking a moment of prayer, reflection, or meditation focusing on one thing you are grateful for. Notice the feeling in your body as you focus on this one point of gratitude. Notice your breath. The feeling in your gut. Think about what it feels like to focus this way. Let your body provide you with clues. Turn down the noise and turn up the volume in listening to your own body.

Then begin a practice- first thing in the morning and /or last thing at night. Take 5 minutes to focus your thoughts on that which you are grateful for. Watch and look for the feelings of inner contentment that you will likely begin to experience.

Will it make all your problems and difficulties fade away? Of course not. But it just may equip you to experience more happiness and even better, a longer lasting inner contentment that you choose daily.

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