Happiness – is it a choice?

Happy and Sad © Sarininka | Dreamstime.com

It’s become popular to tell people to “just be happy”, and that being happy, or not being happy, is “all a choice”. I’m a big proponent of the power of choice, but I’ve never felt that happiness was as simple as choice.

It seems that Sonia Lyubomirsky, a University of California Psychology professor, thinks the same way – and she has almost two decades of study to support her conclusions. Lyubomirsky says that half our happiness is determined by genetics – something we can’t change. The rest of happiness is 10% about life circumstances (which we may or may not be able to change at any given time) and 40% about things we have control over: our thoughts, our behaviours, attitudes, habits, goals, and the things we choose to do.

So, it seems we do have control, we can choose – to a degree. Fifty percent is a signification amount of power, both the half we can change, and the half we can’t. Those who’ve won the genetic lottery have a major head start on being happy, and they won’t have to work as hard to be very happy. Others will find it takes a lot more concision effort, and carefully watching what they choose.

Now let’s bring this into your marriage. One of you is more genetically predisposed to being happy – possibly a lot more predisposed. If you are more given to happiness, DO NOT get down on your bride for not doing what comes naturally for you. You can easily make it worse, or cause her to think, “why bother”. On the other hand, if you can accept her limitations, you will be in a better place to help her to make choices that will lead to her being happier. Know that it’s more difficult for her, and praise her efforts. If she is the one more predisposed to being happy, try to help her understand that you have to work harder at it, and ask her to help you rather than judging you.

Props to Tim Brownson for leading me to Sonia Lyubomirsky.

Image Credit: © Sarininka | Dreamstime.com

3 Comments on “Happiness – is it a choice?

  1. Hmmmm… well happiness IS an emotion, which means she may have a huge point there with her study. However, as a Christian the real issue is about Joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means the closer you are in your walk, the more you have. Good/healthy trees bear good fruit, but bad/sick trees can’t. People miss the difference, between being happy and having joy, all the time. It’s human nature. But the fact remains that Joy is not an emotion… it IS a choice, made easier and easier the closer your walk becomes, but impossible without Him.

    All that said… it’s not really about how happy one of you is with a given situation, but whether you can look to the Lord and take Joy in all of it. You still don’t come down on each other. But you DO remind, in love, about the difference… lift them up in prayer, and support them.

  2. I am thankful that having Christ can change all of this. My Father told me when I was 13 that I was a melancholy and I needed to be careful about that. Since then I have made it a point to memorize scripture and listen to music that turns my eyes on Christ and His sovereignty and great love in all situations. I have struggled through seasons of ‘unhappiness’, but find that HE is my joy and happiness when I return to seeking Him first.
    My wife has been a tremendous help, gently reminding me when I start to get somber to go and spend time with my Savior and be reminded of His faithfulness.

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