Cultivating Happiness

I am someone who believes in the power of choice. Both as an individual and as a parent. Let me try to explain what I mean.

When I was little, my mom says I always needed to have a choice. Like if she wanted me to wear a blue dress, she would have to have me choose between two options (“Jenna, do you want to wear the red dress or the blue dress?”). She claims that most of the time I would pick the option she wanted me to (in this case the blue dress), but that I always needed a choice. If she just asked me to wear the blue dress, I would say “No!” … I find that pattern has pretty much followed me into adulthood. I am pretty amiable and can go with the flow but I always want to feel like I have choices, or I get stressed and anxious.

Now in the case above, it really is more important to have the illusion of choice. Like I could choose between two choices, but both options were ones that my mom approved of. But there is something empowering about having a choice, even if it’s a carefully structured choice. It allows for autonomy and individuality. And I carry this over into my parenting style- I want my kids to feel empowered to make their own choices, even at a really early age. I started letting Ava choose what outfit she wanted as soon as she could point to one (by providing two options).

I think there is a lot to be said about the power of choice, the power to choose. We get to choose our thoughts- if a negative thought comes into our mind, we get to choose to agree with it or redirect it and remind ourselves of something more positive. In the quote above, Christopher Aiff says that positivity is simply a “conscious choice to focus on the good and cultivate happiness.” It doesn’t discount sadness or “belittle the sadness that exists” but reminds us that we have the power to CHOOSE. Especially in the standard day-to-day stressors, I think this is extremely important.

There will always be things in your day-to-day existence that have the opportunity to bring sadness or stress. They can be as small as running out of your favorite coffee in the morning or as big as your car breaking down- these are just part of life. But you get to choose if they ruin your whole day or if you choose to stay positive and keep moving.

Happiness is an emotion. It is fleeting and fluid in how we experience it, so it doesn’t make sense for it to be a goal. However, I believe you can create a space to cultivate happiness, where the feeling of happiness is more likely to exist. And part of doing that is not letting sadness or stressors win your energy and time.

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