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What would You Call a Happy Life? #SaturdayThoughts #Happiness

happiness is a choice

happiness is a choiceHappiness is a modern obsession. I’ve come across many articles that define happiness, an insightful Ted talk or two. (Check them out, they’re fascinating.)

Personally, I used to think think that happiness depended on where you were born. Your surroundings, the conveniences available to you.

It then became a sort of goal, something for me to achieve once I’d reached a certain milestone. That failed–because those goals didn’t bring me the happiness I expected.

Later, I thought family, friends, and relationships led to happiness. If you worked on making those great, you’d be happy.

Happiness is a choice For the past few years, I’ve felt that joy exists from moment to moment. How happy you are depends upon the quality of your attention, and what you turn that attention towards.

It is a relative thing, a chimera, something that depends entirely on your perspective. It is a Choice. A more difficult one to make on some days, but a choice, nevertheless.

Here are two pictures of happiness I saw this morning.

Community and contentment, despite stolen electricity and no sanitation, no education and no proper home.

Ask these people, and I don’t know if they’d say they’re happy, but this morning I woke up to laughter, sunshine and the joyous shrieks of children, and that definitely struck me as happiness. (Here’ my post on Instagram.)

What about you? What would you call a happy life? What is happiness? What is the secret to it? Do you think these are happy pictures?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Doing what God made me to do. Which is writing. I’m sure he’s made me for more than one thing, but right now, that’s where I find a unique sort of happiness.

  • You are absolutely right! Happiness is a choice, a choice based on mindfulness and the things we decide to pay attention to. I am also of the belief that happiness is measured in moments. Happiness is not a constant feeling, but it is there at some point. We are searching for it constantly, but often times we forget to really open our eyes and recognize it’s precense. I fins happiness in the simple things, things similar to the ones you described in this post. Happiness is also found when you are grateful. I find happiness when I wake up in the morning an the sun is out, I find happiness when I’m around my family, I find happiness when I spend time with my friends, I find happiness when I see a good view… I also find happiness when the people around me are happy and positive. Also, just like you so clearly explained here, you don’t need to have anything and everything to achieve happiness. Thank you so much for sharing this. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. ?????

  • Ankur Mithal says:

    And it does not seem to be a function of your material possessions.

  • sjgreenhart says:

    Contentment. Whatever circumstance we’re in, if we’re *truly* content then there’s potential for happiness. I think happiness is fleeting, but an overall contentedness can serve just as well in most of the in between moments… 🙂

  • gatesinlife says:

    “Yet you look to the future to make you happy. I’ll be happy, you say, when I’m married. Then, after you get married, you think, I’ll be very happy when we have children. Of course, when you have kids you can’t enjoy yourself without a house. You postpone your happiness until that perfect future date, but it never arrives.
    Be in the present moment. If you live fully now, tomorrow will take care of itself. If you are happy now, the past will not torment you.” ~ Christopher Pike …

    I know it’s just a quote from a novel, but it inspired me at the time I read it and now I have a reason to share. 🙂

  • Esha M Dutta says:

    I’d say, to each his/her own. We all define happiness in very individual ways. It can never be the same for two people. First things first, D.The picture is a great capture. A brief moment frozen in time. Not sure if it needs labeling or if one may right in labeling it happy or otherwise.For me, happiness has always been a state of mind. Life has taught me one thing about happiness-that nobody can chase happiness. The more you chase it, the more it eludes. So live in the moment and savour whatever lies before you.

  • Abhijit Ray says:

    I think there are two kind of people. One depends on outside for happiness. Material goods, acquisition, possession makes them happy. They always look for latest gadgets, best cars, beautiful wife or handsome husband. Because all these increase their self esteem. There is another kind of people who are innately happy. Whatever may be their brain circuit, they get enough happiness juice internally and they stay happy even under the most trying circumstances. Some say, this state of innate happiness can be achieved through rigorous discipline. But buying a new car or getting a beautiful girlfriend is probably easier.

  • Love these pictures… and yes, definitely these pictures are happy pictures. Happiness is something that makes your soul smile, anyone, anything or any moment that makes you feel that life is worth living…
    beautiful write up Damyanti… it really made me pause and think. And suddenly I feel so grateful for all the blessings in my life…
    Sending you love , hugs and wishes that happiness keep finding you …

  • macjam47 says:

    Hi Damyanti! For me, happiness is tied to my family. I love being around my children and their families, my siblings and their families, and my friends. It is the connection to other people. Hearing children laugh as they play, enjoying a good conversation with others, sharing a simple meal bring peace and happiness. Doing good deeds for others is another way to find happiness. Take care, my dear friend. xxx

  • True Happiness is the joy which you feel when people surrounding you are always happy and cheerful because of you. Happiness in very little things and yes waking up to little kid laughter are one of the best experiences. #SpreadHappiness #StayBlessed

  • robertcday says:

    Love those pictures. Real life. The kind of life that all real writers want to experience. Even I wish …

    By the way, do you really read all my stuff?

    Kindness – Robert (typing with a banana in one hand – ‘scuse the mess).

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I read a lot of stuff when I’m commuting and such like but rarely have the bandwidth to comment. I’m traveling these days with spotty internet, so not many posts and comments these days.

      • robertcday says:

        That’s okay. If you do read them, then you’re one of my biggest followers. Not that I mean that you’re big. I mean, overweight. That is, you could be – and that would be okay. Big is healthy, right? 🙂

  • OpOOka says:

    Choices are based on decision making that result into an action. Happiness is not an action, it’s a state of mind. I don’t see how happiness can be a choice.

  • G. J. Jolly says:

    “What about you? What would you call a happy life? What is happiness? What is the secret to it? Do you think these are happy pictures?”

    I don’t think it’s possible to have a happy life. Most of my believe is this: happiness is in moments, not years or lifetimes. With that stated, I do believe people can have a generally contented life if they can stop themselves from focusing so hard on the negative and realize life is what it is and no one really has a lot of power over it. Everyone has their crosses to bear, even the filthy rich. If you can bear the burdens without all the whining, chances are your life will be one of contentment for the most part.

    I wish I could say these pictures were of happiness but I’d be lying. Life has some dreadful and cruel things going on.

  • Terveen says:

    Let’s define happiness…instead of it defining us. The first step towards being happy is acceptance…Great post!

  • matheikal says:

    Happiness is a choice. That’s the best approach to the topic. We choose it. I have seen people being happy with very little things. They chose to be happy.

  • shanayatales says:

    I agree with you. It does depend on perspective, and evolves as we do. But one thing is a constant. Happiness is always a choice. Sometimes a difficult one to make, but always a choice.

  • Debbie D. says:

    I agree that perspective plays a big roll in whether or not a person is happy, over all (does not apply to those suffering from clinical depression). It’s a mindset, based on gratitude and not material possessions. This differs from those momentary pleasures one experiences during specific activities or events. Those who constantly “chase” happiness are unlikely to find it, because they don’t understand it.

  • It almost seems self-indulgent doesn’t it? When famine,wars, poverty and refugees seems the lot of half of the world. I just kick myself in the pants whenever I think I am down and tell myself to be grateful instead.

  • Irunsolo says:

    Happiness is what you make it; a choice for every incident, every situation, every day. It should be irrelevant to where you live, what you own, or the experiences of anyone else in your life. In my opinion, tying happiness to those things might achieve short-term results, but happiness cannot be sustained long term on only those things.

  • zazaxmilesoff says:

    Hi Damyanti, I always remember the month I spent in Nepal dearly, when I think about happiness. I was there just after the big earthquake in 2015. And the people, I met, didn’t have much, but they shared and were happy. No material wealth in the world can get you close to what those people have. So – to me – happiness lies within yourself and you can either find access to it, or you can’t.

  • This is something I let go of years ago after spending years pursuing it. It was a chimera and now it’s a choice. So nicely explained, Damyanti.

  • Tom Burton says:

    Lovely post! Very uplifting to read! 🙂
    Personally, I feel that happiness is something that’s ever-changing according to your own personal circumstances, but the important thing is having exactly what you need, and nothing excess that you don’t. Whether that’s a close warm family or working in a job you excel at and love doing, or finding time for self-care and peace of mind; if it helps heal your mind, body and spirit, that’s what happiness is. 🙂

  • Bikramjit says:

    Love your insight, I feel happiness is something, differ from pleasure. lie within self, a own perception. Sometimes confusing

  • JT Twissel says:

    Happiness is a fleeing thing I think. I don’t worry about being happy. Achieving something I set out to do makes me happy but then there’s always the next thing.

  • literarylad says:

    While there is undoubtedly an element of choice in being happy, or otherwise, I don’t think it’s a one-off choice. Rather, it’s something you need to work at. I also think that it isn’t helpful with regard to the condition of depression, where it simply isn’t possible to remind yourself of the positive elements of your life and ‘snap out of it’.

  • pjlazos says:

    So the country of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas, has a Minister of Happiness and the people rate themselves on a happiness quotient. What’s funny is, the king of Bhutan recently decided that the country should be more democratic and they are now in the midst of elections and the people are less happy because of all the negative ads swirling around — nothing compared to our negative ads here in the states, but negative for the Bhutanese. So I wonder, is it the practice of politics that is making us so unhappy?

  • This is from Webster Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary was not as clear about the word happiness.
    : a state of well-being and contentment : joy
    : a pleasurable or satisfying experience
    I wish you every happiness in life.
    I had the happiness of seeing you
    — W. S. Gilbert

    You talked about situations of the moment that gave you a pleasurable experience and felt that was happiness.

    I go with the concept of well being or contentment. We may have times of grief and negative experiences but if we have an underlying feeling of well being and that things will sort out in life and are confident of a positive life to come that to me is well being, contentment and happiness.

  • Widdershins says:

    Finding joy and peace in a thing, moment, thought, person, is enough for me. 😀

  • And what is happiness? In my experience, it’s only a moment’s pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road. No one can be happy all the time. Better, I think, to wish for wisdom, a virtue not so fickle. – William Kent Krueger, from Ordinary Grace.

  • I was very interested to read Yuval Noah Harari’s take on happiness in his book Sapiens. He (very) briefly summarizes his ideas on happiness on his website (quote posted below). But in the book he takes these concepts much further, explaining that our level of happiness/contentedness has very little to do with our material circumstances but much more to do with the levels of neurotransmitters in our brains (serotonin etc). He describes this as a scale or a spectrum, with everyone experiencing a differing baseline of happiness, or lack thereof, and posits that some people will naturally be happier than others even if all the other circumstances in their lives are the same. While he concedes to the obvious that there are moments we are happier or less happy than others, he suggests that some people might never even experience the levels of euphoria that are other people’s natural dispositions. Here’s that quote:

    “We are far more powerful than our ancestors, but are we much happier? It doesn’t seem so. Compared to what most people in history dreamt about, we may be living in paradise. But for some reason, we don’t feel the part.

    One explanation is that happiness depends less on objective conditions and more on our own expectations. Expectations, however, tend to adapt to conditions. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvements in conditions might leave us as dissatisfied as before.

    A second explanation is that both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our internal biochemical system. And our biochemical system has no real interest in happiness. It was shaped by evolution to increase our chances of survival and reproduction, and evolution has made sure that no matter what we achieve, we remain dissatisfied, forever grasping for more.

    A third explanation is that humans simply don’t understand what happiness is. We are like a driver in a car who pushes the fuel pedal for all he is worth, but the gear is still in neutral. No wonder that we are producing a lot of noise and energy, but we aren’t really getting anywhere.”

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing… for me it is living life… 🙂

    “It is not easy to find happiness within ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” Agnes Repplier

  • lafenix says:

    What a question! It seems so simple to answer and yet, broken down, it can quickly become complicated. I think it boils down to what a person thinks the definition of happiness is and if that person’s life would fit within that definition.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – happiness is being able to live peacefully, quietly with ‘warmth’ of surroundings – i.e. no grief from others … where there’s no immediate worry ahead. Interesting and thoughtful comments you’ve had here – cheers Hilary

  • Bellybytes says:

    I don’t think the pictures are happy but the people in them don’t look unhappy either. I personally don’t think there’s any formula for happiness. You are either happy or you aren’t . Even if you are happy there are times when you aren’t . So basically I feel if you are busy you are happy because you don’t have time to think about it !

  • I addressed this issue in 2014 in a post, which I’ll reproduce here:

    I like to be happy, who doesn’t? But happiness is not something I pursue. Happiness is fleeting; it is a reaction to circumstances, internal or external, a transient state that can easily be affected by events. It can be generated in a moment, by a smile, a child’s laughter, a pleasant conversation; but it can be destroyed just as quickly. A child’s smile can “make your day” and a cross word can “spoil your day” (especially a cryptic one).

    Religious people tell me that I should seek joy; the joy that comes from a personal relationship with their god.

    In the 1970s and early 1980s, I was attracted to religion; to Christianity, ultimately at a near fundamentalist level. I read the Bible cover to cover. Twice. I bought and studied scores of books. I became involved with the local church and with Christian groups. I really threw myself into it. After a few years, I had a relatively deep understanding of the Christian faith, of its doctrines, rationales and practices. I could go along with and understand most of it. It seemed to make sense. However, I never actually believed it, never felt it. I never found the relationship I was told was the province of the true believer. I wanted to, but it never happened. I stopped trying, looked more objectively at what I had learned, and changed my conclusions. Religion didn’t work out for me.

    I aim for contentment – the general feeling that everything is running acceptably well, that life is good. Contentment can enjoy happiness, and endure unhappiness. Contentment allows for highs and lows but as long as the line representing the mid-point between the highs and lows is above zero, provided the highs outweigh the lows, it says, on balance, life is okay!

    Contentment is okay, and it’s okay to be okay.

    That’s what I reckon, anyway.

  • ccyager says:

    “For the past few years, I’ve felt that joy exists from moment to moment. How happy you are depends upon the quality of your attention, and what you turn that attention towards.”

    A nugget of hard won wisdom that quote. I rarely think about happiness or if I’m happy anymore. I used to think about it because I was so unhappy and depressed. Now I focus on how I want to live my life and then living it. So perspective plays an important role. I have found also that when I’m doing something I love — writing fiction — I feel one with a larger reality and that to me is happiness. Choosing kindness and compassion over selfishness and obsession is another way I feel one with a larger reality. Happiness almost never comes from something external, but from the internal state of mind.

    Hope your writing is going well, Damyanti!

  • Peter Nena says:

    Happiness is overrated. The market uses it to keep us buying stuff. Buying more and more stuff. Even stuff we don’t really need. Satisfaction is more practical.

  • Eric says:

    “You [God] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalms 4:7). I feel like I’m just beginning to know this joy, but it is real, and the offer stands open to all.

  • They do look content in those pictures. I think happiness starts within and should be disconnected from thoughts of owning things. It is indeed, a choice.

  • The1Essence says:

    So many adults define their lid based on levels of happiness. But. It’s just as you stated a choice! Loved this!

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