Taking care of your body is a choice you get to make hundreds of times a day. You get to decide if you are going to nourish your body with healing foods or foods that don’t serve you and ultimately harm you. You get to decide if you are going to focus on what’s good in your life or allow negativity to consume your day. You get to decide if you want to move your body, stimulating oxygen and promoting circulation or stay put in a chair, a couch or in bed.

It’s estimated that as many as 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are related to stress. We are over-scheduled, over-caffeinated and often anxious. Heaping insult on top of injury, we sometimes apply our high intensity to the goal of happiness itself—pushing ourselves, working overtime, exercising compulsively, all of which drive up our dis-ease and stress levels.

What are we seeking? Is happiness the true definition of success? Why does happiness even matter? And, perhaps most important, is happiness a choice?

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that we were either born with the ability to be happy, or not. “We’ve been told that our genetics work in our favor or lead us to be depressed, pessimistic, or anxious. This is partly true,” says Maria Sirois, PsyD, a Kripalu presenter. Scientific findings from leading figures in Positive Psychology, like researcher Sonja Lyubormirsky, do indicate that genetics play a role in our happiness.

However, biology is not destiny. “Research in the fields of epigenetics and neuroplasticity demonstrates that our brains and our DNA can be influenced, over time, by our choices. We can change our basic level of happiness through our behaviors,” says Maria.

Yes, every day you have choices, so here are 10 steps on how to choose happiness.

1. Choose happiness as a priority

While Yoda said, “Do or Do Not… there is no try,” this may be a case of “fake it ‘til you make it.” If you haven’t felt happy in a while, “trying” is taking the small steps to feeling happy, authentically. What often blocks our happiness is the picture in our head of how life is supposed to be. We compare ourselves to others and give up, because it appears we have so far to go.

How do you “try” to feel happy? Look at how far you’ve come. Smile until eventually it feels genuine. Listen to happy music. Watch programs that uplift you. Pretend today is going to be great. Do so, and it will be. Research shows that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. A great attitude always leads to great experiences.

Appreciate what you have. Being appreciative for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy or acquire anything new. It makes sense. You will have a hard time ever being happy if you aren’t thankful for what you already have.

2. Choose mindfulness and practice gratitude

The secret to happiness could be as simple (and difficult) as becoming more mindful. Meditation — a practice that anyone can do, anywhere, so long as they’re willing to sit and try to silence the mind — is thought to be a happiness booster. University of Wisconsin psychology professor Richard Davidson found in his research that a meditation practice might help to shift brain activity from the right frontal area of the brain (associated with depression, anxiety and worry) to the left, which has been found to correlate with feelings of happiness, excitement, joy and alertness.

Gratitude is a scientifically backed way to increase happiness. You can choose to be more grateful. Feel gratitude for simple pleasures, defined as “those pleasures in life that are available to most people.”  Examples: the colors in nature, the flavor of your favorite food, the smell of a flower, the warmth of your bed or feel of the pages of your favorite book.

3. Choose to be around the right people

Spend time with nice people who are likeminded. Relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.  Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.  Life is too short to spend time with people who drain the happiness out of you.

4. Choose happiness and find success

Conventional thinking has it that pursuing success will lead to happiness, but research has shown that it may be just the opposite. Pursuing happiness leads not only to happiness itself, but also to success. It makes sense because happy people who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge. When you radiate happiness, you attract people and resources to help you succeed. You recognize small successes along the way, making you grateful, happier, and more successful… which gives you more to be grateful and happy about and the success loop continues.

5. Choose to practice compassion

You never know what is going on in the lives of other people. When someone treats you rudely, cuts you off at an intersection, of steps in front of you in line, choose to feel compassion. This could be the worst day of her life and she didn’t realize she cut the line. This could be the day he found out his child was rushed to the hospital and he sped in front of you because he’s racing to get there. Since you have no control over other people, just your reaction to them, choose to wish them well and hope whatever caused their rudeness will bring them peace soon. Choosing compassion will release so much of your stress from external triggers and cause you to feel much happier.

6. Choose to allow yourself to be happy

Allowing yourself to experience happiness is a choice.  For every minute you allow yourself to feel angry or irritated, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.  Be happy.  Be yourself.  If others don’t like it, then let them be.  Life isn’t about pleasing everybody. Most people find this out too late in life. Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who spent years working with elderly people on their deathbeds, noticed a common theme that came up repeatedly among her patients at the end of their lives: They regretted not “letting” themselves be happy. Learn from their regrets.

7. Choose to help others

Care about people.  In life, you get what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.

8. Choose to let go when it’s time

Sometimes you have to be strong for yourself.  Love is worth fighting for, but you can’t be the only one fighting.  People need to fight for you too.  If they don’t, you eventually have to move on and realize that what you gave them was more than they were willing to give you.  Some relationships and situations just can’t be fixed.  If you try to force them back together, things will only get worse.  Holding on is being brave, but letting go and moving on is often what makes us stronger and happier.

9. Choose to embrace the next chapter of your life with excitement

You can hold on to the past, or you can create your own happiness today.  Never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart.  Every day is a new beginning and a new ending.  Embrace it, make the best of it, smile, and keep looking straight ahead.  And don’t forget, a smile doesn’t always mean a person is happy right now; sometimes it simply means they are strong enough to face their problems going forward.

10. Choose to take care of your body!!! 

Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be.  If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.  Recent studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise significantly raises happiness levels in the near-term.  Not only that, six months later, the people who had continued to exercise were less likely to relapse into depression because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

One choice for cultivating happiness is by choosing acupuncture. Acupuncture can create deep feelings of relaxation while allowing the body to rest and reset. Acupuncture treatments help to create resilience in the body and strengthen our emotional foundation so that we are better equipped to deal with daily stressors, rather than succumb to them. It calms the internal stress responses and gives the body a chance to create internal peace. When the body is in a state of peace the body naturally experiences a decline in psychological negativity. The outcome is better balance of self and of one’s emotional state. This is now the perfect environment to cultivate happiness.

With increased happiness we can improve our health, our general outlook on life and our social relationships.  The choice is yours.  Choose happiness.

Integrative Acupuncture   561-819-0530  www.integrativeacupuncture.net

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