Weighty Matters

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Emotional Choice

on November 20, 2012

This morning when I was getting ready for work, I had a random thought.  Is happiness a conscious choice?  I almost immediately discounted the notion because next thought was that I couldn’t imagine that someone would choose to be depressed, sad or otherwise not happy.   Then I thought about clinical depression as an illness and decided that happiness couldn’t very well be a non-illness.

Then I decided that I’d done enough deep thinking in the first 15 minutes of being awake and, perhaps, I should hold off until I’d had a cup of caffeine tea.

I had a busy day today with some ups and downs.  I knew ahead of time that we would most likely head out for a manatee rescue.  I love manatees and hate that they frequently are hit by boats. I relish that this work is part of our mission because, hey, how many jobs are there where one can say that they are directly helping an endangered species?   This morning I pinballed between opposite emotions.  I was sad that there was a manatee that had been hit, happy that our team was going to help, sighing because I’d be out of the office all day on the rescue instead of tending to the list of projects on my “To Do” list, happy because I’d be out of the office today helping a manatee.  Later on I was happy because we were successful (The little guy is already at a place receiving treatment!), bummed that it took most of the day, happy because we got photos and video out to the news, wistful that we didn’t get the true “money” shot.

I also didn’t get done early enough and had to miss my Tuesday evening Zumba class.  Even though I fully accept what the priority needed to be, this made me mega cranky.

How did all this emotional variety affect me?  Well, on the way home I really, really, really wanted chocolate.  I didn’t give into the temptation but drove home, let out the dogs, and changed into my pajamas.  Not only are these garments, cozy, comfy and nurturing, but I’m also a lot less likely to go through the hassle of changing back into my clothes and going out for a sugar rush.

While that is a positive check in the successful strategizing column, the good control has not alleviated my crankiness.    I just asked myself, “Now what?  Are you going to be pissy all night?”

That is the question.  I’m back to the pondering with which I began this morning.  Is happiness a choice?  Honestly, I don’t think so.   It’s not like I can toggle the switch and go from cranky to happy with a single flick.  I can, however, be willing to work toward it.  That’s the choice I can make.  Here’s how I’m going about it.  I made a cup of my favorite green tea (Tazo Zen).  I’m going to stretch out in my recliner and watch some television for awhile and not dwell on the more “downer” aspects of my day.  I’m going to choose to have a better attitude for the rest of the evening and then treat myself well with a relaxing hot bath.

Maybe there’s no guarantee, but it has to be better than dwelling or doing nothing.

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5 responses to “Emotional Choice

  1. hoperoth says:

    I think it’s kind of cool that missing zumba made you cranky. Obviously, it’s not fun to be cranky. And I don’t want you to be unhappy. But, in a weird way, it shows just how much you’ve changed. And that’s kindof awesome.

  2. Rose says:

    I think that happiness is a choice, it’s just sometimes a hard one to make. Or maybe only that we’ll be happier if we act as if happiness were a choice, if you get what I’m saying. I’m always happier when I feel I have some agency in my life. People can turn that around so that it smacks of blaming the victim, which is certainly not what people who are dealing with depression need, but that’s not what I mean. I remember once reading something about a study of survivors of rape, and the gist of the article was that people who found something in their own behavior that they could change to avoid getting into the situation again recovered better than people who could not think of anything they could do to protect themselves from being a victim again. Even though 100% of the time the rapist is 100% at fault. Depression is life’s rapist – it’s never the fault of the victim, but it’s easier to recover from if you believe you can choose different. In my opinion.

    My analogy is probably a wretched one, and I hereby apologize to any survivors of rape or depression that I offended.

  3. June says:

    I also think you are right. People don’t choose to be sad and certainly depression is not a choice. But I do think that sometimes you have to work a little not to get in the way of feeling happy. So on those occasions, some times I think you can choose to be happy by letting go unimportant things that are blocking it. So I think we can make adjustments on the margins but the bigger stuff is pretty hard to shift.

  4. Skye says:

    I agree, it’s not simply a choice, not matter what some people say. But, as you are doing, you can choose to work toward happiness. That is what I’ve been doing for over half my life: working toward happiness (with times of happiness definitely in the mix). You can choose to act happier in the “fake it til you make it” way. And, from the cognitive therapeutic aspect, you can choose to not dwell on the unhappy and to find out what is causing some or all of it and work to change it.

    Good move, changing into pajamas so you’d have to get dressed to go out and get chocolate. I sometimes do the same type of thing so it’s too much work to get dressed and go out. And I successfully avoided buying chocolate today when I was in the pharmacy! Go us! 🙂

    Good job! Hope your bath is wonderful.

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