The Art of Choosing Happiness

HappyHave you ever wondered about those people who seem to be so genuinely happy all the time?

Years ago I found myself asking that question and honestly wondered if these people were for real. Had I’d missed some important lesson on happiness along the way? Having experienced my share of pain, difficulty and sadness in my life (as we all do), I started to wonder if I was destined to be unhappy or if I too could be one of those happy people I was so marvelled by.

One teacher in particular who came along my path was this shining beam of light. She exuded joy in a way I had never seen, she was for real and I wanted some of what she had. But what was it that she had??

I had no idea and the more time I spent with her, the more I witnessed her to be seemingly unaffected by the crap life deals out. It wasn’t like she was exempt from life challenges, she just simply chose to put it all in it’s place and not be controlled by it.

Oh how I wanted to be like that and at that point in my life, which was many years ago now, I felt like life was one knocking blow after another….true happiness so far from reach.

Years later after much inner reflection, study of Eastern medicine, Thai Massage and Medicine in particular and Yoga, I feel like I have found the path to happiness. Allow me to share a bit of my story with you.

The house I grew up in focused on 3 main emotions….Happy, Sad and Angry. In my memories, it was the latter two emotions that seemed most often present. My parents loved me and did a wonderful job of raising me, it was simply that they themselves had never learned to express themselves beyond the scope of those 3 emotions at that point in time.

To be fair and uncandid, I had experienced sexual abuse at a very young age, which created some serious walls. Walls understandably built for self protection, but walls that blocked life from touching me to the fullest. As a child and youth, I was unable to understand the impact the abuse had on me, nor how it contributed to my emotional happiness or lack there of. So fairly, I do not put my parents on the hook for all of the emotional turbulence I experienced in my younger days.

As I began to do my own personal work, you can imagine my surprise in discovering the vast array of emotions that actually exist between Happy, Sad, Angry and the fact that anger is usually a secondary emotion. One used to protect ourselves from feeling all those other emotions. One that in a way, protects us from feeling vulnerable….or so we think. To many of us, the word vulnerable is a dirty word. However, in the words of Brene Brown, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful!”, and this I believe to be true.

In the book Eat, Pray, Love, Ketut said, “Learn how to smile from your liver”. There’s a lot of layers to that comment; the liver being the home of anger in Eastern medicine, learning how to be happy from the inside another layer of what he was getting at. Over the years, what I have come to learn is that true happiness is a choice. Regardless of what is going on around you, you always have to power to choose how you respond and what your attitude is. You actually get to” Choose” to be happy….or not.

There are no magic tricks, no pills, diets, gimmicks or anything that can ”Make you happy”. In looking outwardly, you are giving your power up and are depending on someone or something outside of yourself, which  never lasts long. I’m not saying we don’t need support or guidance. My teachers have been the ones to guide me down the path to happiness and I would not have gotten there as quickly as I did without them (which still took a few years) but ultimately, I had to do the work. And I did. And I still am.

What I’ve learned so far is this….It is up to me to make the changes in my repetitive thoughts and reprogram the wiring in my brain. All you have to do is keep practising to choose the positive thought over the negative and you will get there.

That is not to say that sometimes we won’t be sad, anxious, afraid or angry….we are human. How long you choose to experience those particular emotions is your choice. I’m not saying it’ll be easy. It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. I’ve come to call it “sitting in my shit caldron“. Sometimes, you need to sit in your caldron until you’re ready to get out.

So….What do you choose?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this. I’m curious to know what you think, what you’ve experienced and how you’ve moved through your own personal challenges.

Much gratitude,

Cris Carter Authentic Jersey