Can you choose to be happy?

Can you choose to be happy? Yes & no! Here’s why…

Can you choose to be happy? If you’ve ever wondered Is happiness is a choice? this article is for you. Our answer is both “yes” and “no.” At first glance, the answer may appear complex, but choosing happiness might be simpler than you think. Keep reading, and we’ll explain why. Then we’ll explore eight powerful ideas on how to choose happiness!

Can you choose to be happy? The first answer is No!

If you’ve ever tried to change your mood from sad, mad, or anxious to happy by sheer willpower, then you know the human capacity to choose happiness is limited. Changing one’s mood through grit is tough. And even if you manage to accomplish this, maintaining grit-based happiness is even more difficult.

The truth is, feelings are fickle. Moods come, go, and change over time. According to psychologist R.S. Woodsworth, feelings are a representation of our inner state. Choosing happiness isn’t as simple as telling our inner self, “It’s time to be happy now.” Emotions simply don’t work that way.

Why the second answer to Can you choose to be happy? is Yes!

While manifesting emotions by sheer willpower is difficult, feelings are easily influenced. One way to influence our mood is by recognizing the empowering choices we can make. According to Dr. Ronald Fischer from the Victoria University of Wellington’s school of psychology, having choices is more powerful in achieving happiness than money. After conducting a review study of over 420,599 individuals, Dr. Fisher concluded, “Having choices gives you options to pursue meaning in your life, finding activities that stimulate and excite you, keep you active and entertained. This is an important aspect of feeling happy.”

As my good friend Erik Tyler likes to say, “You always have a choice.” The trick is identifying those choices and then making the right decisions.

The bottom line is that you and I can choose to make ourselves happy—just not instantaneously. We can’t simply snap our fingers and be happier. But we can act like happy people do. Everyone has the ability to stack tiny happiness habits together, and this generates happiness. Feelings follow actions. When we consistently act in the ways that happy people do, over time, we will feel happier.

A Simple Happiness Experiment

If you don’t believe me, then try this simple happiness experiment. First, note how happy you feel right now. You might even rate your happiness on a scale of 1-10. Then, engage in as many of the happiness habits below as possible. Intentionally choose each one of these actions. Note how your happiness elevates with each happiness habit performed.

So, are you ready to dive into increased happiness?

How to Choose Happiness

Can you choose to be happy? While you can’t simply turn on happiness like the lights in your home, you can choose to do the types of things that happy people do. Chances are, happy feelings will follow. Here are eight actions you can take to choose more happiness today.

1. Choose happiness by smiling at everyone you meet.

Smiling is a quick happiness booster. In fact, it’s one of the fastest happiness habits around. Thanks to mirror neurons, we get a second happiness boost when others smile back. So put a soft, gentle grin on your face and elevate your joy!

2. Choose to be happier by changing your routine and doing more of what you enjoy.

For example, try taking the long way to work. Choose to drive by the beach, lake, or a favorite scenic overlook. A small break from the usual routine is an excellent way to choose happiness.

3. Choose happiness by sipping your coffee more slowly.

Coffee, of course, is a metaphor for anything you love doing. Don’t just rush through the things you enjoy. Decide to pause and fully savor the moment.

4. Choose to be happier with prayer. Then leave worry, fear, and anxieties in God’s loving hands.

I Samuel 30:6 says, “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” In times of trouble, choose to follow David’s example and find strength in God.

5. Be happier now by choosing to laugh and dance.

Yesterday, our four-year-old got her flu shot. When the nurse stuck the needle in her arm, she looked right at it and giggled—no joke. After it was all over, she popped out of her chair, did a happy dance, and sang, “Now I get ice cream.” When you have the option to cry over a sharp poke or dance because you get ice cream, make the choice to laugh and dance. Celebrating the positive is an excellent way to choose happiness.

6. Choose happiness by practicing gratitude.

Ask yourself, “What’s good about this situation?” Then, be grateful for the opportunity to learn from the pain. You can grow stronger because of the struggle. You can learn from the experience. There is always something to be grateful for. The trick is to find it!

7. Decide to be happier by being still.

What if you stopped trying to fix, improve, or change your situation? Did you know you can decide to be still instead? Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” When you can’t fix the situation, you can choose to stop frantically rushing around. So be still, and know that this too is in His loving hands.

8. Choose happiness by phoning a cheerful friend.

Phoning a friend is more than just a lifeline on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. This lifeline works in real life too. As Proverbs 17:22 says, a cheerful heart truly is good medicine. Choose whom you spend time with wisely.

Can you choose to be happy? Here’s our conclusion…

Can you choose to be happy? No, you can’t simply turn on happiness. As we have seen, that answer is far too simplistic. But you can choose to focus on what you can do. You can practice tiny happiness habits that are highly likely to lead to more happiness. From this perspective, happiness is, indeed, a choice.

But don’t just take my word for this. See what the experts have to say in these choose to be happy quotes.

Choose to be Happy Quotes

The science of happiness says having options increases our happiness. So far, we’ve looked at how to choose happiness by practicing happiness habits. The great news is this is not just a pie-in-the-sky theory that only works in the lab. We know that having choices makes us happy from experience too. Here are a few of my favorite choose to be happy quotes.

1. “Be happy with what you have. Be excited about what you want.” ~Alan Cohen

Choose to be happy by focusing on what you have as opposed to what you don’t. Choosing to get excited about what we want and where we are going versus bemoaning what we don’t have yet is an excellent happiness habit. Follow Alan’s advice. Decide to get excited and enjoy the journey—even if it’s an odd, windy road.

2. “Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with the journey, you will be in love forever.” ~Peter Hagerty

According to Joseph Campbell, every hero has a journey. The Hero’s Journey always has an arc. There is a struggle that leads to transformation and change. Embrace the journey. Choose to fall in love with it. Then, enjoy every step of the way.

3. “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” ~Greg Anderson

The only time you and I can be happy is now. Happiness is always experienced in the present moment. We can never make ourselves feel happy in the past or future. There is much wisdom in focusing on the journey, not the destination.

4. “Happiness is not having what you want. It is appreciating what you have.” ~Unknown

This week, our dishwasher broke. Then, the sole repairman in our little town went into quarantine. One thing I know with certainty is once our dishwasher is fixed, I will appreciate it 100 times more than I have in the past. Most people have more to be happy about than they realize. Choosing to appreciate what we have truly is profound happiness wisdom.

These are four of my favorite choose to be happy quotes. One thing I appreciate about this happiness wisdom is it shows that happiness is a choice—at least parts of it are. As you can see, choosing happiness works in the real world too.

Diving Deeper into How to Choose Happiness

Use the questions below for additional reflection and discussion.

  • Can you choose to be happy, and is happiness a choice? How would you answer this question?
  • Which of the 8 happiness tips have you put into action, and how did they work for you?
  • What happiness ideas would you add to this list?
  • When is the last time you chose happiness? What did choosing happiness look like for you?
  • Is it still possible to choose happiness in the midst of COVID and our worldwide pandemic? Why or why not?
  • What choose to be happy quotes would you add to our list?
  • What insights would you add to this article on how to choose happiness?

So, can a person choose to be happy? What do you think? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below!

Be Happier Now: Happiness is your choice!

In many ways, happiness is your choice. So why not be happier now. While you may not be able to choose happiness (the feeling), you can choose to act in ways that happy people do. Because feelings follow actions, happiness is likely to follow. Can you choose to be happy? We have already seen the answer is no and yes! But I tend to think it’s more yes than no.

Now, dive deeper into how to choose happiness with my book Be Happier Now!

We’re currently in the process of revising, updating, and making Be Happier Now even better. But you can still get your FREE copy of the original. Plus, you’ll be the first to get the updated version when it’s released. Happiness truly is your choice. Be Happier Now provides ten quick happiness wins you can apply today. Put them into action, choose happiness (or at least the actions that happy people take), then see if the happy feelings follow. You might think of this as your happiness experiment.

Be Happier Now Free eBook
Download your FREE copy of Be Happier Now

After trying out the ten simple happiness habits in Be Happier Now, let us know what you think! Can you choose to be happy? We’d love to hear how you would answer this question in the comments below!

More Thoughts on Happiness

Next Steps

Jen and I are thrilled you stopped by! Kind words and coffee fuel this blog. If you enjoyed our thoughts on how to choose happiness, please help us keep the great content coming. How would you answer the question, “Can you choose to be happy?” Let us know your thoughts. Or use the buy us a coffee button to help fund our next project. To dive even deeper, you can also check out our books and resources for couples. Jen and I are passionate about helping couples create happy marriages. Know we honestly couldn’t do this without amazing readers—like you—cheering us on!

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at

15 thoughts on “Can you choose to be happy? Yes & no! Here’s why…”

  1. Fabulous post, Jed! I plan on sharing this post with a few stubborn negativity addicts who insist they couldn’t be happy if they tried. No one could get to the bottom of your happiness experiment list and NOT be happy! I so agree, we always have a choice and we CAN choose to be happy! Love the practical tips and advice in this article!

  2. Jed, I appreciate how you differentiated between our choices and our emotional responses. I think you should put your tips in an info-gram. They are worth remembering.

  3. Jed, I so appreciate this post. Like someone else said, I think we can choose to be happy but it depends on where our thoughts dwell. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’m feeling angry, discouraged, or something else, I need to take time away and do something that I enjoy. I need space to recalibrate my heart and thoughts. And, after a period of time, my mindset is more positive. I appreciate your suggestions for things that can help us choose to be happy. Thank you!

    I hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving.

  4. One of the things I always told my 3 boys as they were growing up is that each person is responsible for their own happiness. Love that Alan Cohen quote! Thanks for the uplifting post.

  5. I don’t think everyone can choose to be happy! There’s too much turmoil and sadness going on in the lives of some people for them to truly be happy. Then there are those who are full of sin and evil ways. So no, I don’t think everyone can choose to be happy! Thanks so much for linking up with me at my party #FaithAndWorshipChristianWeekend 11, open until November 30 at 12:05 am.

  6. Brilliant post. I don’t think a lot of people understand that they can choose happiness. I went to an inspirational talk once and was horrified to discover that it’s something like 2% of people who actually choose to be happy. Most think happiness is something that is given to them instead of enjoying the happiness they create themselves.

  7. Hi Jed,

    I enjoyed your happiness post. I think we can choose thoughts and actions that aid us in being happier. I think that getting all the way to happy from depression, despair or anger in one giant leap is pretty much impossible. The advice that I’ve often given is to look around for one thing you could do that would make you feel just a little bit better than you feel now. Do that thing. Then look around for another thing that would make you feel just a little bit happier. Then do that thing. Keep repeating. I also find that it helps to approach life with gratitude and with the idea that there is always a silver lining. When you’re looking for the silver lining, it finds you, or you find it.

  8. It is so important to try to be happy. Happiness keeps us positive in life. It brings in good things and also keeps us healthy.

  9. I don’t believe we can turn sadness into happiness, but we can deal with the sadness in a more positive light, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to wallow for a short period of time. Thanks for joining in with #pocolo and hope to see you back again soon

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