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The Happy Addiction

By September 4, 2014December 28th, 2020One Comment

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

(Popular children’s song)

Remember Bobby McFerrin’s popular song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”?

We have a problem. Everything depends on being happy.

Webster defines happy as “favored by circumstances; lucky, fortunate.” Happiness depends on your circumstances – on what is going on in your life at a certain time. It is fleeting and fickle at best; disappointing and impossible at worst.

Have you ever thought about the difference between happiness and joy?

Joy is an emotion, but it is independent of your circumstances. It’s an attitude. A decision. You can be joyful when all your circumstances are messed up. Webster defines it this way, “a very glad feeling; great pleasure; delight.” Did you notice the word “delight”?

As a young mom, there were many days where life circumstances certainly didn’t make me happy.

  • I wasn’t happy when my children were sick.
  • I wasn’t happy when my husband’s work required 14+ hour days for an entire week or longer.
  • I wasn’t happy when my checkbook balance was rapidly approaching zero, payday was still more than a week away, and we needed milk or had a bill due.

But I had a choice. I could wallow in my unhappiness – and trust me I did at times – or I could look for the hidden blessings in these times – those “knock your socks off cause it’s so unexpected” gems.

  • When my high-energy baby was sick, he’d actually want to cuddle. Joy!
  • My husband’s job was such that, during those long workdays, we’d take a break and go see him for a bit. Joy!
  • Though our checkbook balance was never large, it was always enough for what we needed and even for some of what we wanted. Joy!

As part of learning to choose joy, I started removing “happy” from my vocabulary. This wasn’t easy – and still isn’t. Think about how many times a day you use the word happy. As Americans, we believe it’s our right to be happy. ”Life, liberty and [the pursuit of] happiness.” We forget the “pursuit of” and jump right to “happiness.” It’s become an addiction.

Through the years, I’ve met numerous people in various difficult circumstances who were joyful. If you asked them if they were happy, they’d probably say “no”. Their circumstances were less than ideal, but they were smiling, peaceful, content. It didn’t make sense, but they were full of joy in spite of their circumstances.

One woman I knew explained that she consciously chose joy everyday. She lived for years with tremendous pain, yet she was thankful to be alive that day. She was the most winsome person I ever met.

Another gentleman I knew never spoke a word the entire time I knew him. He’d suffered a stroke many years earlier. But, he was always smiling and conveyed such peace and joy every time he greeted you. Remarkable man.

Focusing on being happy is selfish. Think about it. If you are consumed with being happy, you obsess about making sure your desires are met. Your world is egocentric. If you aren’t happy then something is wrong and needs to be changed. Now! The happy addiction needs to be constantly fed.

It is possible to be joyful in the midst of less than ideal circumstances. It amazed me to see how my children reacted when I decided to practice joy. For instance, for several years, my part-time job at a church and my husband’s volunteer work involved long hours on Sunday mornings. At the time, the church was renting temporary space, which meant we had to set up and tear down each Sunday. My husband and I noticed that if we approached Sunday’s with a positive, joyful attitude, our children were also positive and content. They weren’t whining and complaining about it. However, if the kids heard us grumping and grousing about something or saying we weren’t “happy” their attitudes and words mirrored ours. Hmmm.

Being joyful is always my decision. Am I going to choose to exhibit joy or am I going to get caught up in the circumstances and choose to be miserable? Henri Nouwen said “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it every day.”

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here. But, the focus on joy instead of happy has made a huge change in my life. It’s all about my attitude. And, if I’m focused on me, I’m most likely not going to be happy. But, if I can look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, I am filled with joy. Joy is independent of my circumstances; happiness is dependent on my circumstances.

Have you bought the lie that it is your “right” to be happy? Are you stuck trying to feed the happy addiction? May I suggest that you make a conscious effort to choose joy today? See what happens to your attitude and then tell me about it.

And if nothing else – grab a peace of chocolate! Joy!

Kirsten D. Samuel
Aftershock Recovery Coach
8-week Program, Custom-paced Coaching, Remote, or In-person Sessions

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

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