Have you ever heard of the saying that you’re getting in the way of your own happiness? Turns out, there’s something actually to that. Most of us, including me, go through life without much thought to what emotions we feel and what thoughts we think – emotions and thought are things that just sort of come and go as they please when and where they want. We eat an ice cream cone on the beach and we feel happy, we put our dog down because he’s sick, and we feel very sad. The emotion isn’t something we control, it’s just the natural consequence of the circumstances…or is it? The idea that we actually have the ability to control our own thoughts and emotions is a foreign concept – at least to this Irish Catholic raised in a very pragmatic world.
If I’m in a car accident, I face two possible reactions. I can feel upset at the person who hit me, as well as the probable increase in insurance I’ll face, and the inconvenience of the time my car will need to be in the shop. OR…I can feel grateful that I am alive and that my only injuries are ones that will heal, as well as that the other person is not injured either, and that we both get another chance to live and enjoy life. I have the choice of how to respond and how to think and feel, and that choice will decide my thoughts and emotions, and consequently my level of happiness.
People often feel that amidst difficult circumstances, they should feel badly. Thus they steer their thoughts into a negative sphere and invite in emotions of sadness, anger, and bitterness. All it takes, though, is one look at some of the Holocaust survivors, and the stories of hope and happiness that grew out of the worst possible circumstances to see how possible it is to control our own happiness. The video I attached is a moving example. Alice Herz Sommer was a prisoner for 2 years with her son, and sought laughter and happiness in the middle of the worst of the worst.
Maybe you are in a failing marriage, or you are running ragged with toddlers on two hours of sleep, or working with less-than-uplifting coworkers and bosses…you still have the choice of how you are going to respond. Circumstances won’t make you happy; think about the rich rockstars that commit suicide and do drugs to escape from their world. So let’s say today that we choose not to be miserable, but instead will steer our thoughts and feelings toward happiness. You are special, you are loved, and there is no reason for you not to experience the state you were created to live in – peace, joy, and happiness.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8