Joy Ignites Success

Can We Really Choose to Be Happy?

By - Tuesday, October 08, 2013

After several people commented to me the other day about choosing to be happy, I had an opportunity to see if it could be that simple.
I woke up in a crappy mood, the reason not important. So, I said to myself, “Well, you could just choose to be happy”.
Guess what? It didn’t work. Not even a little bit. And I gave it my very best effort, willing to be wrong about what I previously believed.
Instead, I am writing this blog about why we can’t just choose to be happy.
Humans (and animals) experience their emotions first in the body at a cellular level. Humans feel a sensation, and then, with the pre-frontal cortex, label the sensation and only then do we feel angry, sad, happy, scared. Without the label we just have a sensation.
For example, if my body starts to tremble, I could identify that as fear, excitement or a response to the chill in the air. Without the label, I just have trembling.
The other morning, my crappy mood was accompanied by feelings of heaviness that I labeled dread. There was no way I could ethically call that feeling happiness. Sure, I could get up and lie to my husband and myself about what I was feeling, but that would not change the heaviness into happiness.

When we choose to be happy, one of the risks is denying our experience.

Years ago, the predominant belief in the field of psychotherapy was that all feelings were generated by beliefs.  In more recent years, with the work of the late Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion, and others studying the mind-body connection, this belief is shifting.  We now know there are receptor sites all over the body for emotional molecules.  One interesting note is the abundance of receptor cites in the stomach; think of  “gut feelings”.  What this means is that we can have a response in the body that we later understand to be fear or anger, before the thought comes into awareness.  In these cases, changing the thought isn’t going to be an option for moving through the feeling.
If we want to create a possibility of happiness in the future, we can welcome the feeling that is here now. When we bring awareness to the physical sensation and any accompanying thoughts, the energy will move through and let go of its own accord. This can happen very quickly when we remove any resistance or judgment to feeling what is here now.
And then, there is an opportunity for a new feeling to arise. Maybe that feeling will be happy, maybe it won’t.


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Melanie Smithson Institute is dedicated to enriching lives through embodied education and training; using movement, play and releasing to connect with innate wisdom and joy.  

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