Scientifically, happiness can be a choice

Can happiness really be a choice? Our brains are incredible, yet still finite, so when we spend our precious mental resources scanning for the negative, we have fewer resources for the positive.

At a fundamental level, happiness is a choice based upon how we devote those resources.

If you were in a high school science class right now, they’d be teaching you that “you are your genes and environment.” If you ask someone why they are not happy, they will point to changes in their company or family history or seemingly static neurochemicals.

But there is a third path: conscious choice. By consciously choosing our mindset and creating positive habits, the research is stunningly clear: we can trump our limited expectations for optimism, happiness, and performance. When a participant is asked to do a two-minute positive habit like journaling or meditating, we find that their happiness rises, optimism strengthens, and stress lowers.

Moreover, you may know a lifelong pessimist who turned into a positive, grateful person after a negative event like a car accident or layoff. And we have found positive people in the worst of external worlds (banking collapses, combat, cancer, natural disasters, etc.).

This discovery scares us, because choice connotes responsibility. If we can choose to become more positive and successful, then we share responsibility for our outlook on the world. But the research is also clear that individuals and companies that find access to joy on a daily basis show improvement in every single business and educational outcome. The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.

Throw off the shackles of the false belief that you cannot change, and choose to cultivate a positive brain by spending just one minute right now thinking about how grateful you are for your education, health, income, energy, food, oxygen, or friends. Once you get started you realize very quickly, happiness is not only a choice, it is easier than you might have thought a minute ago. And if you had every employee in your organization try this, imagine what could happen.