The choice of happiness

March 4, 2014 in Life,Philosophy

When I was at Casa Bonita in the Dominican Republic, I was certain I  couldn’t get any happier. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue. I was with someone I love and who makes me laugh, in a partnership where we could endure two hours of detours in an unfamiliar land and three flat tires without raising our voices at each other. The wifi was broken, so I honestly had nothing to do but read my book, go for a swim, drink coconuts full of rum, go for hikes, get a massage.

The next weekend, I went to a silent yoga retreat in the Berkshires. The circumstances couldn’t have been more different. There was snow on the ground, gray skies ahead, a deep chill in the air. I was alone with my thoughts. I didn’t drink any alcohol or eat any meat; the only indulgences were a square of dark chocolate in the afternoon, a cup of black tea in the morning. I meditated, practiced yoga, read my book, sat quietly and warmed my feet around a fire. And I was unbelievably, undeniably happy.

In a funny little twist of fate, I was also able to read the journal entry I had written in the exact same place, exactly a year before. I wrote that I was happy with where I am, that I had “more good luck than I knew what to do with.” I was grateful for my friends, my job, the little joy of hot tea, a stack of magazines and a warm bed. Rereading my gratitude journal over the last year, the same themes continually popped up: the support of my family, a group of hilarious and successful girlfriends in New York City and scattered across the world, a relationship without any drama, a job that appreciated me. My yoga practice, the chance to live in New  York City, the courage to make travel a priority and the joy of a good book, a delicious meal, a relaxing glass of wine.

I’m constantly intrigued by the nature of happiness, how relative it is and how much we control it. The other weekend in New York City, we had a break from a quite relentless winter. A group of Californians gathered on a Saturday afternoon, determined to enjoy a beer and a laugh with our dog friends in the sunshine. It was 50 degrees; we threw off our jackets and relished in the sunshine–and laughed at how back in California, 50 degrees likely would have been the coldest winter day we encountered, a reason for jackets and scarves and boots. Soon, there will come a day in the city where the chill of 50 degrees is cause for complaint, where we ache for the days of light jackets and mild sunshine.

The past few weeks have been a good reminder of our power to choose joy. We can choose joy when we’re on vacation in a tropical paradise (or choose to focus on all that has gone wrong), when we make the time to care for ourselves in a deep and meaningful way, when we’re simply appreciating our daily routine–the cup of hot coffee in the morning, leaving work the moment a glorious sunset breaks out over the sky. We can delight in the magic of waking up to the city covered in fresh snow, marvel at the sheer convenience of being able to go from coast to coast in a mere six hours (with the added bonus of ginger ale and chips), grant a smile (at the very least) to the person busking on the corner–or we can complain, criticize, accuse.

It’s all a choice. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right; whether you want to be happy or want to be miserable, you can be. No matter where I am, I’d like to think I’d be able to rise above and choose joy.

In case you missed it: I also wrote about my happiness project this summer.

Note: the winner of the snail mail giveaway is Shannon Peterson! Thanks for entering–and send some mail this week! 

  • HippieInHeels

    I like to think happiness can be a choice. I understand there are serious issues like depression, but when it comes to just general unhappiness- I think with positive thoughts and doing what makes you feel better about yourself will get you on the right track! It’s like “life of pi” when at the end they make the points of you don’t know if god is real or not but why not just choose the one that makes your life happier… I try to look at other life choices like that.

  • lindsaypunk

    WORD. So much word. This is wonderfully put.

    I choose to chase happiness, and make any changes necessary in my life that I think will get me there – e.g. quitting jobs, moving, breaking up, trying new things. While we’ve hardly hesitated to shake things up in order to up the happiness factor, I feel like this is much more difficult for many other people – and so they just settle for being unhappy, complacent. Sometimes I just want to break out in #preachmode and scream YOU CAN DO THIS, ya know? You can choose happiness! You can change your life! Yay rah! 😀

  • sincerelykateb

    This post makes me happy!

    Bravo, C’est!

  • tomyumgam

    bellisimo! xoxo

  • Perfectly written.

    ps. do you keep a separate journal from your blog? i keep thinking it’s time for me to do the same but I can never keep up with it.

  • CuriosityTravels

    Such a lovely post. I think it´s only been in the last year that I´ve come to realize these things myself. Happiness is completely relative and very controlable. I hope as the year continues I grow in the way I hone my happiness.

    Cheers to 50 degree days! We have been feeling the same in Madrid, and I am dying for some outdoor time!

  • Anđela Ćenan

    oh I love thiiis! :))) I think that, taken the economic state of my country at the moment, people often forget to be thankful and happy for all the things that they DO HAVE… they tend to (ok, we tend to – I also do it sometimes) focus only on the negative and forget to be happy when they really have reasons to be happy… choose joy. always choose joy. I think there should be someone screaming ”choose joy” all day long on the corner of every street, to everyone.. :) love your article!

  • In my experience, remembering to be grateful for what I have tends to keep my spirits raised such that the stuff that would have, in the past, brought me down no longer affects me that way. It’s just generally much harder for the negatives to have an influence and, therefore, it’s a more peaceful way to live.

  • camorose

    Totally. Things like depression, anxiety and other mental disorders definitely need proper care and attention. But overall, I think it’s SO easy to focus on feelings of inadequency and FOMO instead of all that we have going for us!

  • camorose

    YES YES YES! Preach it, girl :)

  • camorose

    Thanks, Macgregor! Other things that make me happy: midday wanders through SoHo and Anthropologie with you xo

  • camorose

    TOM YUM GAM.

  • camorose

    I have two Moleskine journals: one is my gratitude journal, where I just jot down a few things a few times a week that I’m particularly grateful for. The other is where I sporadically write down how I’m feeling, favorite quotes, monthly goals, lists of how I care for myself or things I’m really loving. Neither are updated SUPER regularly, but it is nice to have a place to write down things just for myself!

  • camorose

    Yes! You should totally read The Happiness Project, it’s great in showing how you can increase your own happiness by small life changes.

  • camorose

    Yes! My favorite mantra, courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers Ashlee Gadd :)

  • camorose

    Yes! So much more peaceful. Glad you’ve had a similar experience :)

  • This is exactly how I feel; that happiness is a choice. It’s great to see it written down in words and know someone else agrees; I’ve spent so much time trying to explain this to other people who simply do not understand and are not willing to choose to be happy!

  • Ahh, I think you;ve just convinced me! 😉

  • Allison

    I recently wrote something similar on my blog! Happiness is a choice and we should all strive towards working on happiness a little bit. :)

    allienotsally.blogspot.com

  • Pingback: Unpacking Travel: Issue 18 | GoEuro Blog()

  • camorose

    Thank you, Catherine! I’m so glad that you can relate–and that you’re happy too!

  • camorose

    Yay! Love it–I totally agree :)

  • PS – I’ve included this post in my monthly round up :)

  • camorose

    Hooray! Thank you :)

  • Pingback: My Personal Happiness Project | The Unlost Wanderer()

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