Tag Archives: happy

Happiness is a Choice

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Believing that happiness is a choice feels like something only happy people would say or believe. It’s easy to feel like you can choose to be happy when everything in your world is going well:

  • You are successful in school
  • You work at a job you love
  • You have family and friends who respect and love you
  • You have enough money in the bank to avoid an emotional worry spin when an unexpected bill comes due
  • You wake up feeling healthy and vital, looking forward to taking on life’s challenges

Oh, there are a million more examples.

When life is moving forward as you expected and planned, it is easy to believe that happiness is a choice.


But what about those times the person you love tells you they don’t love you anymore?

Or those times when you get laid off from your job, not because you weren’t good at it, but your employer says he is “down-sizing.” You may have been the best and most productive at work, but you still lost your job. And with this economy it doesn’t look like another job is coming your way for a very long time.

Or one of your kids gets sick and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

There are a million more examples of life’s curve balls. How can anyone believe that happiness is a choice when the unexpected happens, the things that are totally out of your own control? How can anyone choose happiness then?

Here are some answers that take you a step in the right direction:

  • Today, only eat the foods you love. Obviously if your circumstances don’t provide you with many or any choices, choose to eat food rather than starve. But if you are lucky enough to have plenty of food choices, only eat what you love.
  • Start looking for all of the things, circumstance, people and relationships in your life for which you are grateful. Is the sun shining today and you’re a person who likes sunny days? Be grateful. Did your children kiss you goodbye this morning before they left for school? Be grateful. Did you find your missing matching sock in the dryer? Be grateful. In fact you could make a list of all the things you’re grateful for today. See what the smallest thing is. What’s the biggest?
  • Spend some time in nature. If you live in the city where there are more buildings, cars and people than nature, find the city park and spend some time here.
  • Watch a sunrise or a sunset.
  • Search for the first start in the night sky or the last star in the morning sky. Make a wish.
  • Remember a time or a person or an event when you were happy. Ruminate on this thought for 10 minutes a day. Increase the time by 5 minutes every few days.

How will this help you with your big worries and woes? It won’t. But when you start small, choosing to eat only what you love, choosing to think more of the thoughts that nurture and emotionally feed you, you will eliminate some moments when you are stuck in your misery and unhappiness. When you start to make small choices you become increasingly aware that you can make choices. The more you do this AND learn to handle and deal with the big miseries of life, the more you are moving in a happier, mentally healthier direction.

You are making the choice to be happy.




Why Worry – Be Happy

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles – by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it. —  Mark Twain

Most of what we worry about doesn’t ever happen. One joke exclaims: “Worrying works. 90% of what I worry about never happens.”

The problem is that worrying robs you of your present moments, your current life, the joy or sorrow of ordinary moments that are your current life.

Worrying keeps you from being mentally healthy and happy.

You are not to blame. Our brain is wired to pay attention to the scary things. Our brain needed to inform our ancestors that the pretty kitty just out the cave was a lion, not a potential house pet. Thus we began worrying about potential dangers. Worrying is a way to anticipate possible dangers so we can problem-solve our way around or through the problems.

But worrying can become a bad habit. Just like your tongue seems to go to the new broken tooth in your mouth involuntarily, worrying is a thought your mind keeps going back to, over and over and over again.

The great news is that we have control over what we think about. No one can make you think of anything that you do not want to. Victor Fankl gave us the most profound example of this reality in his book Mans Search for Meaning. As a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp he realized that his captors could never control his mind or his thoughts.

If this was true for Frankl in the most severe circumstances, it can be true for you as well. But it will take vigilant practice on your part.

Step 1. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. You need to catch yourself thinking the worrying thought as it is happening:

  •             What will my future be with this diagnosis? Will I live? Will I be in constant pain?
  •             She doesn’t love me anymore. What will I do? She doesn’t love me anymore.
  •             How can we find the money to meet our obligations? Will we lose our home?

If you don’t know what your repeated worry is, start listening to your thoughts. It might help to write your worries down so you will recognize them when they chime into other thoughts taking over all the room in your head.

Step 2. Decide ahead of time what you are going to “switch to” when you find yourself going back over and over again to your worry. For some this can be a meditative image, seeing the scene with great detail in vivid colors. Or you might sing a song, especially one with up-beat lyrics. Or you might repeat a favorite affirmation, or prayer. Practice this alternative thinking now, while you are not worrying. Practice, practice and practice this some more.

Step 3. When you catch yourself worrying, “switch to” your alternative thought.

Step 4. Repeat as often and frequently as necessary.

With practice you will decrease your worrying time allowing room for other, brighter and better thoughts. You can develop a different and better mental health and happiness thinking habit.

However, for you champion worriers, you will need to keep up this practice as new worries will replace old worries that you are letting go of. You need to practice, practice, practice switching your thinking until it becomes a new habit, replacing your habit of worrying thoughts as your new touch stone.

Don’t worry. Be happy.





What are you waiting for?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

  • I’ll start going to the gym once I lose ten pounds.
  • We can start traveling like we always wanted to once our finances are in better shape.
  • When my child is able to handle his temper outbursts better, we’ll go to library story time.
  • When my spouse stops working so hard I’ll make plans for a better marriage.
  • When it stops raining I’ll begin walking in nature.
  • When it starts raining I’ll begin walking in nature

What are you putting off? Do you hear yourself saying “I’ll do that when . . .” Are you putting off your own happiness, making it dependent on another person’s behaviors and changes? Are you postponing your own mental health?

Imagine that the thing you’re waiting for has happened. Imagine you’ve lost the ten pounds, it started or stopped raining, your child is perfectly well behaved, you have plenty of money, and your spouse is home each evening at a reasonable hour. How would you life be different?

Here’s the trickier question: How would you be different in your life? How would you feel? What would you be thinking? What would your actions be?

Now imagine that none of the things you’re waiting for ever happen? Imagine you never lose that ten pounds (maybe even gain another ten), your spouse never gets home any earlier, it never stops or starts raining, and your child goes from one stage of misbehaving to another. Now what?

Here’s an idea. Start acting, thinking and feeling differently even if none of those things you’re waiting for change!

Eliminate the middle step of waiting for those other things. Start now to feel, think and act the way you want. It can actually be that simple.

Instead of waiting to feel, think and act the way you want, just start acting and thinking as you want. You will also start feeling that way too.

If you want mental health and happiness, stop waiting for the world and the people in it to be perfect so you can be mentally healthy and happy. Start acting and thinking then feeling mentally healthy and happy even though the world and the people in it are not perfect.

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections. —   Gerard Way