Happiness often doesn’t feel much like a choice.
Especially when we constantly encounter things in daily life that threaten our peace of mind.
When your rent is due, your boss is on your back, and your love life is in tatters, simply “choosing” to be cheery doesn’t always feel possible.
But if you’re really clever about it, there are ways that happiness truly does become a choice.
Here’s how smart women choose to be happy…
1) Smart women focus on abundance in their life more than lack
We cannot wait for life to be perfect before we let ourselves be happy.
As much of an optimist as I am, the simple fact is it’s never going to happen. Life isn’t perfect, neither are we.
We can’t always control the hand we are dealt, but we can decide where we put our focus.
And that choice is a significant one when it comes to creating more happiness.
Focus on lack, and that’s what you’ll feel.
Focus on abundance and you start to experience deeper gratitude for all that you already have. Regardless of how much more you still want out of life.
Because it’s certainly not about “settling” for less. It’s about recognizing that what you have is never enough when you don’t feel appreciation for it.
Gratitude has been shown to be a powerful cultivator of greater wellbeing and happiness in our lives.
Smart women make the most of what they’ve already got, simply by paying attention to it.
2) Smart women don’t get too wrapped up in themselves
Can I be honest?
I’m a total self-help junkie. I love delving deep into what makes me tick to try to gain better understanding and self-awareness.
Of course, that’s not a bad thing in itself. Personal development is important.
But sometimes I worry.
I worry that too much navel-gazing might actually make me a bit self-absorbed.
There’s certainly something to be said for turning our attention away from ourselves and on to others.
Research has shown that people who give back and try to serve are actually happier.
For example, one study by a Harvard Business School professor found that when we give money away it makes us happier than if we spend it on ourselves.
Perhaps one of the reasons a focus on others makes us happier is because it improves a sense of social connection.
And, going back to our previous point, giving also elicits feelings of gratitude.
That’s why smart women realize that the secret to happiness is helping others.
3) Smart women aren’t afraid to put themselves first and make their needs known
It might sound like a contradiction.
I’ve literally just said that smart women choose happiness by not making everything about them.
But of course, there is a balance to strike.
And the reality is that plenty of women suffer from people pleasing tendencies that all too often rob them of their voice.
They feel guilty for saying “no”, perhaps worrying they are letting others down.
Or they struggle to assert themselves, fearing the judgement that could come their way as a consequence.
But choosing to be happy means allowing your own needs and wants to be heard.
If you always put everyone else’s desires, ideas, and feelings above your own it’s actually a form of self-betrayal.
You are subconsciously saying you are less worthy of happiness than those around you.
4) Smart women take full responsibility for their own life
A smart woman knows this to be true:
Until we take responsibility for ourselves we remain victims in life.
And it’s so hard to choose to be happy when you forever feel at the mercy of other people, or even life itself.
When crappy things happen to us, it’s really tempting to look for someone or something to blame.
Especially when we know it’s certainly not our fault.
But the danger of this mentality is that it can take away your power.
Smart women decide that by taking ownership—over their own feelings and actions—they also take back control.
They feel more in charge of their own destiny as a consequence. They feel more confident in themselves and self-assured about their capabilities.
This encourages smart women to be more proactive and welcome more opportunities into their lives.
5) Smart women try not to not sweat the small stuff
Have you ever noticed that the better life gets, we can find even smaller and seemingly inconsequential things to gripe about?
I recently moved house, and it turned out to be way more stressful than I was expecting.
I found myself feeling anxious and wound up about relatively pointless things in the grand scheme of life.
Things like missing deliveries, constantly chasing customer services, and builders going AWOL.
Sure, it’s annoying, but is it really a big deal?
These trivialities also do some serious damage to our overall wellbeing.
Research has found these little annoyances (that we can’t even control) still raise our stress hormones up to 15%.
I know it’s easier said than done, but smart women choose happiness by reflecting on whether it’s really worth the effort worrying about something or not.
Because more often than not, when we stop to remind ourselves, it’s probably not worth losing our happiness over.
6) Smart women don’t hold on to resentment
I don’t think there’s a person on this planet who hasn’t felt wronged at some point.
Whether that’s being cheated on, being disrespected, being ignored or overlooked — it’s bound to sting.
After all, science shows that emotional rejection and social exclusion is felt in much the same way as physical pain in the brain.
So we can end up internalizing that hurt and carry a grudge. We may well replay wrongdoings over and over in our mind, reliving this suffering.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before:
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
— Nelson Mandella
And it’s so true.
We really do have to find a way to let that sh*t go. Smart women realize this.
They find healthy outlets to express and process negative emotions in order to move on and find their way to forgiveness.
7) Smart women aren’t always expecting the worst
I have a particular family member that is ever vigilant to the worst case scenario.
It’s incredibly draining, not only for her, but even to be around quite frankly.
She reminds herself and others in every single situation of all the potential pitfalls and dangers lurking around us.
Of course, she does this in an attempt to be better prepared. But in reality all she’s doing is creating a whole lot of stress, anxiety and unhappiness.
This type of hyper-vigilance approach actually robs us of our happiness.
Unfortunately, when we go into something expecting the worst we can inadvertently even end up creating it.
I’m not suggesting that we make reckless choices without considering the consequences. But I am suggesting at some point we must accept that there are things we can’t control.
As uncomfortable as that fact is, it’s just a part of life.
Our own scientifically proven “negativity bias” is unfortunately hardwired into us.
But smart women know how to override it by:
- Watching their negative self-talk
- Focusing on potential positives of a situation
8) Smart women practice deep self-acceptance, even when it comes to their own flaws
I recently wrote an article on the merits of embracing your weaknesses.
Let’s face it:
As women we can be incredibly hard on ourselves.
We expect ourselves to be superwoman and do it all. We also can hold ourselves up to impossible beauty standards.
Nothing has the potential to instantly snatch away your happiness and self-esteem quite like that critical voice that lives inside all of us.
That’s why learning to quieten that voice does so much for our wellbeing.
Smart women are learning to accept all of themselves. That includes those bits we may feel embarrassed, guilty or shameful about too.
There is a huge relief that comes with admitting:
“I’m not perfect and that’s ok. I am enough”.
9) Smart women also accept the realities of their life, no matter what they may be
It’s not just self-acceptance that smart women practice in order to take charge of their own happiness.
They choose it by simply accepting what already is in life, rather than fighting against it.
Think about it:
Something happens that really sucks. For example, you get robbed, your partner dumps you, you get fired, etc.
Whilst that’s never going to feel good, we can have a natural tendency to struggle against that reality. It’s not fair, and we wish things were different.
But in the process, we pile even more suffering into the mix.
Buddhist teachings highlight the importance of acceptance whenever we are tempted to resist or avoid the unavoidable facts of life that we don’t like.
This push back only takes us away from the realities of the present moment— and in the process encourages us to choose unhappiness rather than happiness.