Choosing to be happy anyway


This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you’d like to subscribe for a big old dose of positivity in your inbox every Sunday, you can sign up here.

There have been numerous moments this year when I’ve felt winded by the unjustness of life. Text messages delivering news that feels incredibly unfair, situations for loved ones that feel completely undeserved. Every time we turn on the TV we’re hit with stories that cause us to despair, and at times it can feel impossible to remain upbeat when we’re surrounded by so much injustice.

But if there’s one thing I’m learning in this weird and wonderful life, it’s that we have to choose to be happy regardless. We have to choose to focus on the good, no matter how hard life tries to beat us down. We have to choose to be grateful for all that we have, even when it feels like so much has been taken away.

For so long I thought that I could protect myself from the curveballs that life throws at us. I believed that if I played by the rules and made the right decisions and tried to be the very best person I could be, I could somehow cheat the system and avoid the heartbreak and tragedy that I’d seen so many other people have to face.

But I realise now how naive that attitude was. Because the thing is, life doesn’t discriminate. It’s messy and it’s random and at times, it’s wildly unfair. There’s no big points system in the sky, no judge keeping tab and doling out circumstances as they see fit. There’s no way of protecting ourselves from the shitty situations, and unless we’re incredibly lucky, we’ll all have our own curveballs to deal with at numerous points throughout our lives.

As I’ve tried to come to terms with the curveballs and injustices that have affected me and the people I love over the past few years, I’ve learned that the happiest people are those who choose to stay positive in spite of their circumstances. Happy people aren’t happy because nothing has ever gone wrong - they’re happy because they’ve chosen to be that way.

And don’t get me wrong, choosing to be happy isn’t always straightforward, and it can feel even more difficult when we’re dealing with grief or heartbreak or illness. I know firsthand that it’s easier to be angry or sad, to lose all energy and interest in life altogether. But it’s worth all of the effort it takes. It’s worth it to for those small pockets of happiness, for the bursts of sunshine amongst the clouds.

And no matter how much you’re struggling, believe me when I say that the happiness is out there. When you choose to look for the positives, you’ll notice that life is jam-packed full of them. No matter how bleak the situation might be, there will be people helping, there will be humour, there will be hope, there will be love. The key is to let yourself be fuelled by the goodness, the kindness, the teeny tiny moments of joy, rather than letting the unfairness and the heartbreak consume you.

The key is to choose to be happy anyway.