Choosing to Be Happy

“I think it’s brave to try to be happy. You’ve gotten so comfortable being unhappy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up in the morning and choose to be happy?”

This is a quote from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Pushing Daisies. (It’s a beautiful and inspiring and clever show and I highly recommend it; it’s also very weird and quirky, so be warned if you decide to check it out.)

I have a question for you all: How often do you think of happiness as a choice? Sure, you can let the circumstances of your life determine your feelings. And if your life turns out perfectly just how you planned it and everything’s just like you thought it would be, and it’s raining star fruits and unicorns all the time (and also if you like star fruits and unicorns), then congratulations—you’ll probably be feeling pretty good.

But that’s pretty risky to leave your emotional wellbeing up to circumstance. What if your life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted? What if nobody is hiring you for your dream job? What if someone says something hurtful to you? What if your body is a different shape or size than you want it to be and the clothes you wish you could wear don’t fit?

Sure, if things go “wrong” it’s a whole lot easier to complain, to be frustrated, to feel hopeless, than to take action to make things better. But is taking the easy route really worth sacrificing your happiness? That’s up to you to decide.

Keyword: decide.

I’m not going to pretend I have this all figured out. I still get upset when things don’t go the way I was hoping they would. But more and more I am realizing that although outside circumstances definitely have an effect on how I’m feeling, it’s really my thoughts about the circumstance that’s creating the feeling.

I’m realizing that a trying situation is not determining my feelings but is instead challenging me to be a more grounded, peaceful, joyful, loving person, even when it is much harder to be one. And the more I realize this, the happier I am.

I promise you, friends, you have a choice. That choice gives you the power to feel the way you want to feel. So be aware of what you’re choosing.


Why choosing love is about more than eyelashes

Recently I’ve been seeing all these mascara ads with #chooselove, as if love is all about showing off your eyelashes by coating them in thick black goop. I have nothing against mascara (let’s be real though it is just thick black goop) but #chooselove? Really, Revlon?

The reason this got me all fired up is that several months ago I decided to make “Choose Love” sort of my personal motto, and it bugs me that these makeup ads are using what I think is potentially a really powerful statement to promote glamour and superficiality.

The idea to make “Choose Love” my personal motto came to me after the ever-inspirational Oprah introduced me to this idea from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”

I know this isn’t a new idea and it’s already been explored by a lot of wise and thoughtful people. It’s also been used for purposes that I believe to be far nobler than selling eyelash goop. But I had never thought about my emotions in this way, so when Oprah so graciously shared this wisdom, it seriously felt like an epiphany. I thought about how so many times each day, I make decisions that shape the course my own life and the lives of others. I started to wonder: how many of those choices are motivated by fear and how many are motivated by love?

Take starting a blog, for instance. I’ve been thinking about starting one for years because I’ve always thought I’d really enjoy it. So why did I only just publish the first post last week? Because of the following sorts of concerns: If nobody reads it, what’s the point? What if people actually do read it and I run out of things to say? What if I upset people?

I realized, though, that all of the thoughts that were stopping me were based in fear. If I were to choose love, what choice would I make? To start the blog, for no real reason other than the fact that I truly believe I would love doing it.

I’ve also noticed the love vs. fear phenomenon in the ways I react to everyday situations. Say I got super lost on the way to a doctor’s appointment and was probably going to be late. One option would be to go into full-on panic mode, worrying about all the things that are probably definitely going to go wrong and what if I miss the whole appointment and have to come back next week or maybe she has no more appointments this spring so I’ll have to wait until August or what if I drive around for so long that I run out of gas without noticing and get stranded in the middle of nowhere and my cell phone dies and I get eaten by a saber tooth tiger?!?!?!

That would obviously be a fear-based reaction. But I don’t have to react like that. I have a choice. What if I reminded myself in that moment to choose love? I would think, “Well now Maria we might miss that appointment but we’re doing our darned best to find the place, and that’s all we can do right now!” I could choose even more love by taking a deep breath and reminding myself how beautiful the sunshine is today. I could even decide that if I do miss the appointment, I’ll use that time to go for a walk outside or play my mandolin or call somebody I’ve been missing.

Of course, I don’t always remember to choose love in time. I’ve had plenty of experiences like the above where I inadvertently choose fear, and I’m working on that. Training a brain to behave differently than it’s used to can take quite a while apparently. Who knew?

Being afraid doesn’t usually feel like a choice. In a scary situation, a scared response can feel logical, involuntary, and even necessary. But I think that’s just fear trying to convince us to follow it. If we listen carefully, we can hear love making its own argument too. And then we can choose which voice to follow. And because my goal is to squeeze as much star fruit juice out of life as I possibly can, I choose love. And not just on my eyelashes.

With love,