Choosing Happiness

Choosing happiness…you may be thinking “Happiness is a choice.”  To which I say


The topic of happiness can be controversial.

We often think happiness is bestowed upon us if we are “lucky” enough to be able to “afford”it.  This comes from or capitalistic culture that socializes us to think that happiness comes in the form of external circumstances or means. Happiness is thought to be in the newest IPhone, the next job, the next relationship, the newest fashion, etc.  Our culture is constantly distracting us with ads and pressure to consume in order to be happy.

In our discussion FOMO: How the Fear of Missing Out has You Missing Out we chatted about the concept of what the kids call “FOMO” which is the fear of missing out.  This occurs when you are constantly checking your phone for new messages, when you are texting other people while at dinner with someone, when you are wondering what could possibly be going on elsewhere that would top what your present moment is serving up.

When we experience FOMO a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for elation and excitement, floods the body.  Dopamine is released in the area of the brain called the lambic system or “pleasure center” where we experience emotions.  Dopamine is released when the pleasure center is tapping during the use of substances, gambling, sex, shopping, riding amusement rides, new positive experiences such as dating someone new or making new friends.  Basically any pleasurable experience triggers the dopamine release.  FOMO gets triggered so much in today’s culture because we can constantly be aware of what is occurring where we are not.  The idea that somewhere else there is an experience that could give us pleasure is just too much excitement to handle!

Fascinating, right?

So one might think that FOMO would help us actually experience more pleasure.  But wait a minute, why is that not often our experience?  Well that would take us deeper into our discussion of what it might mean to choose happiness.

Lately I have started to pick up books on positive psychology again.  This area of psychology utterly fascinates me. It is what saved me from my burnout in the field of social work.  Discovering positive psych helped me to realize just why I was so burnt out.  It was the lack of experiencing positivity in my field that was tapping me out.  I had no reserves to give to others.  I am not just talking about my clients, I had little to give to myself and to share with family and friends.  Focusing on others problems and the problems of the world was making it hard to see the brighter, lighter side of life.

I mention this because I believe this is what is occurring for most people now a days.  We are so focused on all the ill happening in the world that it becomes very difficult for people to both acknowledge the positive as well as feel that they have a right to be happy amongst so much pain.


These days it is far more socially acceptable to be outraged than it is to be happy. Many in the psychology world scoff at positive psychology stating that it is pressuring people to put a smile on top of their pain to make others feel better.  Personally I have had conversations with people in my field where I have intuitively picked up on the dismissive quality of their response to my share about a model of therapy that incorporates teaching people how to embrace the positive. I recently came across some books that are written in judgment of positive psychology and “the business of happiness.”

What comes to mind is….


We are all in pain.

Pain is universal and is not something that “the business of happiness” can take away.

I share with my clients who are struggling that this is life.  Life is full of peaks and valleys.  None of us will get through this lifetime without experiencing loss, grief and pain (both psychic/mental and physical.)

Pain is unavoidable.

But at the same time, happiness is available should you choose it.

Positive psychology is not about chasing after happiness.  It is about acknowledging that happiness and joy are ALREADY PRESENT; right here, right now.

Rick Hanson, PhD  showed in his research for his book Buddha’s Brain that the brain picks up on negative experience far more easily than it does those that are positive.  It takes concerted effort for the brain to pick up on what is positive about the present moment.  No wonder we are contstantly triggered with FOMO and chasing happiness elsewhere.  Our brains are struggling to see that happiness resides right where our feet are.

With this proven to be true, it would seem that we are in GREAT need of the principles of positive psychologynow more than ever.  There are experiences that constantly trigger outrage in the hearts of those who are sensitive to what ails humanity.

Shawn Achor writes in his book “The Happiness Advantage” that one practice that helps us experience happiness in the present is to write down three good things about your day.  We are to make them specific.  So instead of doing the gratitude list that incporates gratitude for those that you love, you instead focus on specific moments of your day that brought about feelings of joy, laughter, gratitude and happiness.

I am not positing that we let go of our anger about what is happening in our world today but instead we think of ways that we can turn that anger into love.   If thinking about being positive is triggering to us, one question might be “how might I experience love in this moment?”

Anger creates more suffering.

Love is really the sole reason we are here on this planet. We are here to love.

How might you experience more feelings of love today?

Today my three things include watching the beauty of the snow falling, the taste of my morning tea while watching said snow fall and touching base with loved ones to make sure they are safe and secure.

Now you go….what three good things did you experience today!

Cheers to Choosing Happiness!

Want more info on how you can work with me to help increase your own health and happiness?  Contact me to discuss further.


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