Happiness is Not a Choice

Happiness is Not a Choice

Understanding the Complexity of Happiness

Happiness is often touted as a choice – just decide to be happy! But the reality is much more nuanced. Our ability to feel happy depends on a complex interplay of our genetics, life circumstances, habits, relationships, physical health, and thought patterns.

It’s Not All Up To Us

Research shows that genetics account for about 50% of our happiness levels. Some people are simply predisposed to be happier or more melancholy. Trauma and adverse experiences in childhood can also have lasting impacts.

As adults, factors outside our control continue to influence our happiness. Illness, disability, grief, financial struggles, unemployment, discrimination, and unhealthy relationships can all dampen our capacity for joy.

But We Do Have Some Influence

While we can’t control everything, our choices and habits do matter. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, developing healthy relationships, engaging in meaningful work, practicing gratitude and mindfulness – these all nurture happiness.

Seeking help for depression and anxiety can also make a huge difference. Talk therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and self-care strategies all empower people to gain more control over their mental health.

Embracing Compassion Over Judgment

Rather than placing judgment or blame, we would do well to approach happiness with compassion – both for ourselves and for others. Everyone deserves support and understanding in the ongoing quest for peace and meaning.

An Ongoing Journey

We must release the unrealistic expectation that we or anyone else can just flip a switch to be happy all the time. Peace of mind is a lifelong journey with ups and downs.

With supportive communities and wise mentors to light the way, we can traverse the terrain with more ease – not berating ourselves for the unavoidable obstacles, but celebrating the beauty around us wherever we can.


What factors influence happiness?

Genetics, childhood experiences, health, disability, grief, relationships, work, habits, thought patterns, and life circumstances all play a role in shaping happiness.

Can we control our own happiness?

We have some influence over our happiness through our choices about sleep, diet, exercise, relationships, work, and mental health care – but many factors remain outside of our control.

How much do genes impact happiness?

Research suggests genetics account for about 50% of the differences we see in people’s happiness levels.

What is the compassionate response to unhappiness?

Rather than judging people for being unhappy, we can offer them compassion, support, and an understanding that wellbeing is complicated and takes a lifetime of work.

What are some key ingredients of happiness?

Some key ingredients include strong relationships, good physical and mental health supported by lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, engaging work, financial stability, and practices like gratitude and mindfulness.