You have to choose to be happy

For the most part, I’m a happy person. I usually see the bright side of things and always have fun. It’s a family trait that I inherited from my ancestors.
That’s why I have difficulty relating to the introduction to Richard Carlson’s book, “You Can Be Happy No Matter What.”
Carlson states, “Happiness! It’s something that all of us want but few of us ever achieve.”
Can that be a true statement?
If it is true that few of us ever achieve happiness, I wonder why. Is it our own fault? Is it the fault of our genes? Or is it just because we never got the hang of it?
Whatever the reason, we can all profit from reading a guide to happiness like Carlson’s book. Carlson is a well-known psychologist and the author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”
In his book “You Can Be Happy No Matter What,” Carlson defines happiness: “It is characterized by feelings of gratitude, inner peace, satisfaction, and affection for ourselves and for others.”
He goes on to say that happiness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances.
If you are unhappy, ask yourself what made you feel so unhappy. Is it what someone else did or said? Is it what you didn’t achieve in your life? Or is it what you don’t own?
Carlson cites an example: “Let us pretend that you accidentally spill a glass of water on the floor of a restaurant and look up to see that a man, two tables over, has flashed what you believe to be a disapproving look.
“You respond with anger. ‘What’s the matter with that guy,’ you think. ‘Hasn’t he ever dropped anything? What a jerk!’
“Your thoughts about the circumstance make you frustrated, and end up ruining your afternoon. Every few minutes you remember the incident, and as you think about it, you become angry.
“But the truth of the matter is that person didn’t even see you drop the water. He was in his own world, reacting to his own thoughts about an error he had made at work earlier that day. He couldn’t have cared less about you.
“In fact, he didn’t even know that you existed.”
Even if the man in the restaurant had seen you spill the glass of water and had purposely given you a disapproving look, you could choose to think, “He must be an unhappy man to respond like that.” Then dismiss the incident.
Always remember that unhappiness begins as a thought, and that thought is translated to a feeling. Likewise, happiness begins as a thought and then becomes a feeling.
“We are the thinkers of our own thoughts,” says Carlson. So if you want to be happy, learn to control your thoughts. And as you control thoughts, always stay in the present moment.
Let go of the past and don’t worry about the future. Happy people view life as a series of present moments. Life is to be lived now.
Always remember that your happiness is your responsibility and you have everything necessary to be happy—no matter what circumstances come your way.
So why not take control of your thoughts today and choose happiness as a way of life?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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