Is Happiness Really a Choice? (The Truth About Depression and What You Can Do About It)
“HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE”
Never before, in the history of the Internet, have I seen four words set off such a firestorm of debate.
On one side, we have those who agree with the above statement and believe that happiness is indeed a choice (or an “inside job”, if you will), and on the other, we have those who vehemently disagree and believe that it is a result of external circumstances (or, in other words, what happens to us).
It doesn’t matter where these four words pop up—whether it’s a Facebook post, a YouTube video, or a blog like this one—they always split people roughly 50/50, with one half encouraging the other to simply choose happiness and to be more optimistic and the other half (which usually professes, rather openly, that they are suffering from depression currently, have suffered from it in the past, or know someone affected by it) arguing that “it’s not that easy”.
So what is the truth?
Is happiness a choice we consciously make, or is it the result of external conditions outside of our control? In other words, are we in charge of our emotions, or are we helpless, hopeless victims of circumstance, destined to forever find ourselves at the mercy of others?
If you know anything about me, or anything about what Manifestation Machine is about, then you should already know what I’m about to say:
HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE
Not only that, but so is every other feeling we could possibly feel.
If you disagree with that, I can’t really blame you, because you were most likely raised to believe the same thing I was raised to believe, which is that other people are responsible for our feelings. But guess what?
We, as individuals, and we alone, are responsible for how we feel, thus if we feel a certain way about anything, it’s because we chose to feel that way about it—not because someone or something else made us do so (or because we can’t afford some fancy prescription pills or overpriced therapy sessions).
Now, I can hear some people screaming, “That’s not true!” and throwing out examples such as, “When someone hits my car with their car, I can’t be happy about that!”
But see, that’s where you’re wrong.
It’s not that you can’t be happy about it; it’s that you choose to be something else such as, say, sad or angry about it instead.
That you feel that sadness or anger is a more appropriate response to someone damaging your car and thus choose to express those emotions rather than, say, happiness does not make it any less true that you could, if you wanted to, feel happy about someone wrecking your vehicle.
Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.
Let’s say that you didn’t like that car of yours that just got wrecked (or that you flat out hate it). And let’s say that it’s been destroyed, you’re now able to call up your insurance company, file a claim, and get a big, fat check in the mail from them to put towards the purchase of a newer, better car. Could you be happy about your car being wrecked then? I bet you could. Why? Because happiness, again, is a choice, and the fact that most people choose to make their happiness dependent upon external circumstances does nothing to change that.
The truth is, we can choose to be happy at any given moment, regardless of our external circumstances (which are really just a reflection of our most earnest beliefs and our most deeply held convictions anyway), but most of us don’t. Instead, we choose to do what I consider to be one of the dumbest things we could ever do:
WE LETTER OTHERS DECIDE HOW WE FEEL
I’m sure you hear the following statement often and that you’ve said some variation of it yourself at some point:
“You make me so mad!”
And you know what?
This, too, is bullshit.
No one makes you mad (or happy, or sad, etc.)—you make you mad, or, more specifically, you choose to be mad, and you do so as a reaction to people, places, things, and circumstances that are not in alignment with your own beliefs, values, and/or morals. Similarly, you make you happy, or choose to be happy, when the people, places, things, and circumstances that surround you are in alignment with your beliefs, values, and/or morals.
If you were raised, as I was, to believe that other people have the power to make you feel anything (whether it’s happy, sad, angry, or otherwise), then you, my friend, were raised wrong. Accordingly, you have probably spent most of your life blaming (or giving credit to) everyone and everything other than yourself for the way you feel and, whether you’ve known it or not, been suffering quite unnecessarily as a result.
- Not making as much money at your job as you think you deserve? Blame your employer for how angry you are!
- Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife left you for someone else? Blame your ex and/or their new lover for how depressed you feel!
- Get a big financial windfall in the form of a lottery win, inheritance, etc.? Give all the credit for your happiness to the money!
Any time you blame or give credit someone or something else for how you feel about anything, you are giving away your godlike power to create your own reality and putting someone or something else in charge of your life. In other words, rather than control one of the only things in your life that you actually can control—your emotions—you put yourself at the mercy of others, thereby rendering yourself a victim (i.e.: a loser) rather than a victor (i.e.: a winner).
THIS IS WHAT “LEARNED HELPLESSNESS” IS ALL ABOUT
“Learned helplessness” is all about feeling powerless, even if we aren’t necessarily so. It’s about refusing to “pull ourselves up by the boot straps” when we get knocked down, fight back when we are attacked, or stand up for what we believe in because, well, as the depressed and downtrodden love to say, “What’s the point? It’s not like we can really control what happens to us anyway.”
While it is true that we can’t always directly control what happens to us, we can indirectly control or influence it by controlling the five things we actually do have control over in our lives:
- What we think
- How we feel
- What we believe
- What we say
- What we do
I realize that the idea that you actually control these things may be a brand new concept for you, and you may not “buy it” at first, but if you are to have any hope whatsoever of finding and maintaining happiness over the long term, you need to buy it, because it is the truth, and if you disregard the truth, you do so at your own peril.
You see, there is no such thing as “random chance”, “coincidence”, or “luck”—there is only the Law of Cause and Effect, which essentially states that for every cause (as in, every thought you think, emotion you feel, belief you hold, word you say, or action you take) there is an effect (i.e.: a result, or a consequence). As such, your thoughts and feelings, which comprise your beliefs, are not the harmless, wispy little “nothings” that most believe them to be, and they are not private even when you keep them to yourself, but rather the building blocks that make up (and attract to us) what we call physical reality. Don’t believe me?
Just take a look around you.
Take a look at the couch or chair you’re sitting on, your cell phone, your television, the place you live, or the clothes on your back: All of it began as nothing more than a thought. And it was that thought, which was later infused with a feeling (such as passion), that turned that thought into those things you see around you.
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Nothing, and I mean nothing, could exist if no one cared about it.
And therein lies the key to understanding the role that your feelings play in the creation of your circumstances. As I say in my debut children’s novel, ‘Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series’ (which, by the way, is now available on Kindle and in paperback), “If you truly believe in something—that is, if you care enough about it to not just dream about it, but to do something about—your belief will bring it to you.” This means that you truly and passionately caring about things is what breathes life into them.
In layman’s terms, this means that if your life sucks, it’s your own fault, because you’ve chosen to care about the “wrong” things. Taking this a step further…
EVERYTHING IS YOUR FAULT
And when I say everything, I really do mean everything (metaphysically speaking). All the people, places, things, and circumstances that surround you are here because you’ve believed them into existence through the combination of your thoughts and your feelings.
So if you don’t like your life, then change your thoughts and feelings (meaning control them, consciously, for perhaps the first time in your life), and I guarantee you that your life will change (and hopefully improve) right along with them.
Unfortunately, as much as people don’t like pain (the feelings of sadness, depression, etc.), they like change even less, and so I am under no delusion whatsoever that the majority of people who read this post are actually going to take the necessary steps to change their thoughts and feelings (and thus their lives) for the better, regardless of how hard I beat them over the head with the truth.
Because change, in this case, requires taking personal responsibility for how we feel. It requires a complete cessation of the blaming of others for our “problems” and the acceptance of the fact that we create our own reality and, unfortunately, for most of the depressed and downtrodden amongst us (who actually benefit, in some roundabout way, from their depression—more on this in a moment) this may simply be too much to ask.
You see, misery doesn’t just love company—it loves to stay miserable, because misery represents comfort to it, and comfort feels good (even if the misery underlying it doesn’t). So for the “clinically-depressed”, the “bi-polar”, and the otherwise negatively-afflicted amongst us, becoming (and staying) happy really isn’t as “simple” or as “easy” as their more optimistic, happy-go-lucky counterparts might make it out to be.
To achieve long-lasting happiness in their lives, the chronically miserable must do more than “choose to be happy”, because before anyone can choose to be happy—or to be or do anything, for that matter—they must choose to choose. In other words, they must choose to accept the fact that they have the power to choose how they feel and stop playing the “victim card” (blaming everyone and everything else for their “problems”) before they can “choose to be happy”. And until they do that, they will, in fact, be 100% correct in their assertion that happiness is result, rather than a choice…albeit only for them because, for them, the truth is whatever they feel it is—even if it feels like shit, and even if they’re 100% wrong.
And you know what? Anyone other than me might say that it makes them sad that people feel that way, because they know it’s not true, but I’m actually happy about it—not because I take joy in the pain of others, but because I choose to be happy, regardless of how much other people choose to suffer—and I happen to know that until a person feels enough pain (that is, until the pain of not changing becomes worse than the pain of changing), they won’t change.
So if you’re reading this right now, and if what I’ve said “makes you mad” or “hurts you” in any way, I’m glad, because sometimes you have to hurt people to help them, and so I can only hope that you hurt enough, after reading this, to actually do something about it.
Speaking of doing something about it, I’ve spoken a lot so far about the non-physical things we must do to be happy, but I haven’t yet covered the physical things we need to do. So, on that note, and in the interest of hitting unhappiness from all angles, I’d like to finish this post with a blunt, brutally honest discussion of a subject that most writers won’t touch with a ten-foot pole (because, frankly, they don’t know jack shit about it, and they’re afraid to hurt peoples’ feelings, even though they have no power to do any such thing):
THE REAL REASON YOU’RE DEPRESSED (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT)
Contrary to what doctors, therapists, and the pharmaceutical industry would love for you to believe (and have most likely already brainwashed you into believing), depression is not simply a matter of a “chemical imbalance” in your brain. As such, there is no “miracle pill” you can take or “magical number” of therapy sessions you can attend that will “fix” what is “wrong” with you.
Have you ever noticed how doctors are always trying to shove pills down your throat to “fix” the majority of “problems” or arranging for you to see them several times a week, for months or even years on end? There’s a reason for that: It’s called MONEY.
Follow the money and you will find the truth, which is that there is no money to be made for the medical or the pharmaceutical industries in curing your depression. And so they don’t cure it, or even attempt to. Instead, they treat it, and by “it” I don’t mean your actual depression or the root cause of it, but your symptoms. As such, they are not in the business of creating cures; they are in the business of creating customers. And guess what? If you’re on their pills or on their couch, you’re one of them, and that means that, from a financial perspective, they have every reason not to tell you the truth.
THE TRUTH IS…
You’re depressed not because there’s anything inherently “wrong” with you, but because, as simple as it may sound, you have no goals, and because you have no goals your existence is essentially meaningless. And it is that meaninglessness which is the root cause of your depression (and not a “chemical imbalance”, which is simply a symptom of your depression or the lack of goals that preceded it).
That being said, the obvious solution to your “problem” with depression is to get some goals for yourself. And when I say “goals”, let me be very clear: I don’t mean small, short-term goals like taking out the trash, doing the dishes, or feeding the dog—I mean “big picture” goals like writing a book, building a website, or starting your own business—the type of goals that define who you are and what your life is about; that give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning; that give you a reason to live.
Now, I could spend an entire blog post discussing just the art of goal-setting and dream-catching (and I probably will, in the very near future), but because that’s not specifically what this post is about, I will give you the short version of what you need to do, in terms of creating and achieving goals, to beat your depression:
- Choose to choose, which means: Accept the fact that you have the power (or the ability) to consciously choose how you feel, and stop giving that power away to others.
- Decide what you want and why you want it, which means: Pick a goal (relative to what you want, as opposed to what you don’t want) and genuinely care about whether or not you achieve it.
- Listen to your gut and take inspired action, which means: When an opportunity presents itself for you to achieve your goal, or to at least get one step closer to achieving it, take it.
- Always have another goal on the horizon, which means: Don’t settle for having just one goal and always have a series of goals (both large and small) that you are actively pursuing, so that when you achieve one, you can immediately move on to another.
If you choose to do these things, make no mistake about it, you are choosing happiness, even if it’s not “as easy” or “as simple” a process as many in the “happiness is a choice” camp would prefer. Additionally, this process works, and it works every time. And the reason it works is that it gives meaning to your otherwise meaningless existence.
Now, before you take this as me meaning to say that you don’t matter, or as a personal insult, allow me to be clear: It is not that you’ve never mattered, or that your existence has always been without meaning, but that up to this point, or at least until recently, you have simply failed to assign meaning to your existence sufficient to produce your own happiness. In other words, you have been sitting around and waiting, as many mistakenly do, for someone or something else to mean something to you when, in reality, there is no inherent meaning to anything—not even life itself.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
Perhaps you’ve heard the age-old question “What is the meaning of life?” and even pondered the answer to it. Well, spoiler alert: The answer is “Whatever you want it to be.”
You see, just like no one else can make us feel anything to us, unless we let them, nothing can mean anything to us unless we let it. So if you find yourself suffering from depression which, again, is caused by a lack of meaning in your life, the cure is for you to simply decide that something matters to you. It doesn’t even matter what it is or why it matters—all that matters is that it does.
If you find that you have trouble deciding what matters to you, or what has meaning to you, think about it like this instead: What makes you happy? Or better yet, what do you enjoy doing? Perhaps it’s as simple as eating a piece of chocolate or as complicated as starting your own business. Whatever it may be, focus on that and not on the things that don’t matter to you; in other words, focus not on what you don’t want, but on what you do want because, when you do that, the things you don’t want (such as depression) will fade away, slowly but surely, until one day you wake up and find they’re gone.
That day—the day you finally beat depression once and for all—could be the happiest, most glorious day of your life, but it will only come if you can successfully shift your focus and the energy of your emotions from helplessness to happiness, and you know what? I’m rooting for you—and I want you to win.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to be a victim for the rest of your life? Or are you going to be victorious?
The choice is yours.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here today! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Please leave a comment below and tell me how you feel about this post, or better yet, visit its sister thread in the Manifestation Machine Forum and join the discussion about the topics covered herein. I can’t wait to hear from you, and neither can the millions upon millions of your fellow Mechanics!