“Are you happy?” This is a taboo question. I would never dare ask anybody this question unless he or she is a good friend. It seems too personal. It seems like we are prying or intruding.

It seems that the more we progress as a society, the less happy we become.

In our society where instant gratification is a norm, we are always looking for the next good thing. Happiness becomes short-lived. We attribute happiness to milestones or achievements.

“I will be happy if I am promoted.”

“I will be happy if I get a salary rise.”

“I will be happy if I lose weight.”

“I will be happy if I find Mr Right or Ms Right.”

And the list goes on.

Or worst, we place our happiness on the whim of someone else. In order for that ‘something’ to happen to make us happy, someone else has to do something. For example, “I will be happy if he calls!” And if he doesn’t, what happens? We get disappointed and disheartened. But in the first place, why are we placing our happiness in someone else’s hands? You cannot control what he/she does or what he/she does not do.

People are attracted to happy people. People are not attracted to people who are waiting for someone to come along to make them happy. They see, smell and feel your happiness. And they want to be part of that happiness.

For ladies, forget the image of the ‘knight in shining armour’ coming to save you from your misery. You are hardly a damsel in distress. Even if we were to look at the fairytales, all the Disney princesses, despite their hardship, always have a happy disposition. They are experts when it comes to 苦中作乐 (Chinese saying: Finding happiness in the midst of suffering). Isn’t that already a clue? I don’t think their Prince Charming will be attracted to them if they are depressed and prone to lamenting about how hard life is.

Violet, ok, I get you. So how can I be happy?

Let me share a secret with you… happiness is an everyday choice. You can CHOOSE your emotional state. You can CHOOSE to be happy despite your circumstances.

Violet, it is not that I do not want to be happy. But I have a very stressful job where my clients are very demanding. I have a nasty boss. I do not get along with my mother.

I understand. Many of us lead very stressful lives nowadays. And we are constantly interacting with people who expect split-second replies. In the past, if people wanted to reach us, they could only call us at home.  But today, they can call our mobile phones, leave us voice messages, send text messages, email us, chat online with us, drop us a message in our Facebook account, or tweet us on Twitter. If you think about it, it’s really crazy! We feel constantly overwhelmed because we are trying to keep up with all that is happening around us.

Nevertheless, we have a choice.

When someone screams at us, we can choose what emotional meaning and significance to give to his or her actions. And we can choose how we would like to respond.

I used to get all worked up when I receive complaints from demanding clients, especially when their claims were totally baseless. I sometimes even wondered why I bothered helping them when all they wanted to do was to bite my head off. And I got depressed and disillusioned.

Now, I take a step back and analyse why a person did what he or she did. Well, it could be that he was having a bad day, and just needed someone to take his frustration out on. She could be getting increasingly worried as age is catching up. I can either respond in a very defensive manner, or I can invite these people for coffee and a chat!

Happiness is a state of mind. You can either spend the rest of the day being happy. Or being unhappy.

The choice is yours! 🙂