Happiness is not a choice, but Joy is

Common adjectives are: stressful, hard, dull, lonely, overwhelming, difficult, pointless, burdensome, tiring, unfair, crappy, sickening, and sad. They have two common themes. One, they are all negative and two; they are often engrained in a person’s response to “How are you doing?”  Hearing about difficulties rather than blessings is all too common. I am writing this to shed light on the importance of joy as a choice rather than a stroke of luck.

Let’s be serious though. Life is hard! There is absolutely no question about that. It would be all too easy to write several pages supporting that statement. Thankfully, I am always up for a good challenge. So I will attempt to write about the importance of positivity and joy in the midst of everyday stress and B.S.

I think the best way to get a grasp on this topic is to answer 5 common questions. It will be like an FAQ on joy, if you will.

  1. Being happy is not a choice! I can’t control how I am feeling! How can I JUST be happy?

 You’re right!

 Happiness is not a choice. It’s an emotion, which means we can’t always control it. There will be days that aren’t happy. We experience many things in life, such as the loss of a loved one, that aren’t conducive to feeling happy.  It’s also ok to not feel happy. In fact, it would be rather strange to be happy all the time. So the answer is: you can’t always be happy.


  1. So what the heck are you saying? How do you change something you can’t control?

 Great question!

 Happiness is not always a choice, but joy is. As a living, breathing, human being you can choose to be joyful, even in the hardest situations. Unfortunately, this does not always come naturally. In fact, it might seem impossible.

 I am sure you know one of those people that are always so bright. We all have them in our lives. Those people that can wear a gigantic smile along with a full body cast. These people are often described as annoying and irritating because most of us can’t grasp why they are cheerful. The truth is they have chosen to live this way. No one is a robot. No one is excluded from the pains and stressors of this world. With that in mind we can either allow the stress and pain to control us or we can choose to be joyful.

  1. I don’t get it! Can you give me an example?

Of course!

I recently had the opportunity to work with a young man who had been diagnosed with a rare disease of his brain.  The disease had caused dozens of mini tumors to grow on the inside of his skull. Although they are not cancerous, the disease must be treated with chemo-therapy. In addition, the illness is so rare, that no doctor is able to accurately treat this illness without collaborating with several specialists.

This disease arose unexpectedly for this individual and has caused many issues. Furthermore, he has no answers about the success of treatment or the progression of this disease. This alone would be enough to send many of us over the edge. Personally, this would cause all sorts of chaos in my life. However, this person handled it much differently.

From day one he was positive. No matter what, he would always pick out the good rather than the obvious bad. For example, when he was diagnosed for the first time he was thankful that an answer had been found RATHER than upset that he had a rare illness. Moreover, when he learned that he was going to undergo chemo-therapy he was glad that it could be treated RATHER than upset about all the horrible side effects.

This person could have easily been angry, bitter, sad, and stressed, but they were not. Also keep in mind that this person was certainly not HAPPY about this. They consciously chose to remain joyful in the midst of a chaotic circumstance. Each meeting we had was filled with positivity. In fact, he rarely chose to talk about this illness. Our discussions consisted of the great changes he was making in his life. Some of which were due to his illness.  

Although I was technically the helper in this situation, I didn’t see it that way. In fact, I learned a lot about choosing joy over negativity from him. This has inspired me to work at being joyful. If this person could choose to be joyful with a rare illness, I can choose to be joyful when it rains, or when it’s Monday, or when the subway is packed, or when I am stressed at work, or…… you get the point.


  1. If this does not come naturally then how do we work on being more joyful?

 This is the hard part. Learning to be joyful takes much practice and patience. It’s important to keep in mind that it is possible, though.

 Some things you can do to begin choosing joy are:

  • Be aware of how you currently feel
    • It’s ok to feel stressed, angry, or down, but you must understand this before choosing joy.
  • Sit through the discomfort
    • It’s really easy to feed into a negative emotion. It’s really easy to displace this on those around us as well. Despite the ease of feeding the anger, this creates problems for everyone.
    • In contrast, it’s very difficult to be joyful in the midst of negative emotions. It can actually be uncomfortable, but this discomfort is good. It’s indicative of change. So the next time you get shoved on the subway, don’t shove them back or flip them off. Try offering them your seat instead.
  • Emphasize the positive aspects of every situation. It’s always easy to go straight to the negative. Make an effort to reverse this habit.
  • Always remember, practice makes perfect.


  1. What if I just can’t do it?

Well, that sounds negative already. It’s 100 percent possible to learn to be joyful. It’s certainly not easy and it certainly does not come quickly. Once the ball gets rolling though, you will be that annoying person that is always joyful before you know it.


Choose joy.

-Bike and Brain







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