What’s Your Role in Your Own Happiness?

by Katy on April 16, 2012 · 29 comments

I give a lot of thought to happiness, specifically how we are all for the most part in charge of our own contentment. (Of course, life can easily throw in a catastrophe, in which case ignore everything I’m about to write.)

Happiness isn’t something that passively happens to a person. Happiness results from a combination of life’s choices and a decision to view life from a positive perspective. 

Because I’m critically thinking about my own happiness, I feel like I’m more likely to notice and remember things in my daily life that make me happy. For example:

  • When little kids have obviously been given free license to pick out their own clothing. Weird all-striped outfits, multiple illogical layers and the pièce de résistance, shoes on the wrong feet. (Bonus points if they’re rain boots!)
  • No homework weekends. Being able to spend time with my kids without nagging them about homework is pure bliss.
  • An hour or two spent roaming around thrift store. Even if I don’t find anything to buy, (which is frequent) it’s just so relaxing for me.
  • Finding simple solutions to life’s challenges. This can be as simple as my neighbor filling up my fuchsia baskets on a day I have to work, or spray painting an otherwise unforgivably rusted-out light fixture.

I learned yesterday that my 13-year-old son also gives thought to happiness, when he told me that, “People could make sure they’re happy in life by eating something really delicious every day.” I may be biased, (and who cares if I am?) but I think this is a very astute observation, because how can you not be happy when eating something delicious?! Mind you, this didn’t have to be something unhealthy, as the “something delicious” he was referring to was sushi.

I’ve noticed that the simple act of thinking about happiness helps me to feel happier. It’s cyclically crazy!

For those of you who want to learn more about the study of happiness, I highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

Have you been giving more thought to the role of happiness in your own life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph April 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

Hi Katy. This is something I have been giving a lot of thought to recently too. I think other people can give me happy moments but base happiness has to come from within. I have had depression and anxiety for the last 2 years and am trying to find a way out of it. I am currently reading a really interesting book by Susan Cain called Quiet. It is all about introverts in a world that prioritises extroverts. She says happiness may come from the right amount of stimulation for you. Be it reading a book or meeting up with a friend or something like an extreme sport. It has really made me think. I am no longer going to beat myself up for hating parties. Accept yourself. Be your own best friend.
One thing I am trying to do is live in the moment more, something kids are great at.
I haven’t read Gretchen’s book but I think I will look it out.
By the way, seeing that you have a new post up makes me happy.



Katy April 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

Getting to a point where you accept yourself for what you are is easier said than done. (Any how, pray tell does this fit in with self improvement?!)

I am a fairly indoorsy person in an outdoorsy town. But that does’t mean that I force myself to do stuff that I don’t like.

Gretchen has a line about how “You can choose the things you do, but you can’t choose the things you like to do.” (I am probably butchering this quote.) Her example is going to the ballet.

That books sounds interesting, I think I’ll put it on hold at the library. Thanks!



Ashley S :) April 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

The kids dressing themselves cracks me up, that is pretty much my 4 and 6 year old everyday. Today the 4 yr old went to school in his favorite pajama pants and insisted on wearing his t-shirt backwards, and couldn’t decide on shoes so he wore 2 different ones (on the correct feet though). My 6 year old, who is obsessed with dresses and was totally teased this weekend with our 1 day of sunshine decided to wear a pretty summer dress with sweats underneath and her favorite rain boots. So far the only thing my 2 year old cares about is wearing his Batman shoes all the time 🙂
Having a clean house makes me happy, I get so overwhelmed when this place is a wreck, which is often with 3 kids. But usually 15 minutes of quick pick-up and the surfaces (and my mind) are clutter-free. Taking a load of donations to the Goodwill is like huge breath of fresh air for me, so often it literally feels like the weight of the clutter I am getting rid of is coming right off my shoulders!


Tonya April 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I totally agree with you about taking a donation load to Goodwill! It makes me so happy to get things out of my house that we don’t use and that someone else could. 🙂


Katy April 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I think I love your four year old!



Linda in Indiana April 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

Happiness is a choice! I try to focus on the simple things–not always successful, I admit! The simple things ground me and the rest is just icing on the cake of life. Little surprises pop up and I try to savor them. It isn’t the “big things” in life that make life so special because everyday can’t contain “big things”. But the little things savored just delight your being if you let them. We have many things come into our lifes daily if we take the time to slow down and notice them. Still working on it–but life is much sweeter when I do.
And I agree with Steph, a new post from you is a delight each and every time!


Megyn @MinimalistMommi April 16, 2012 at 11:47 am

I’m going to come at this from a purely psychological perspective. Happiness (better referred to as subjective well-being) is a highly genetic trait. I’ve been reading simple living, minimalism, etc. blogs for quite some time, and this idea of “finding happiness” is a pervasive theme. Personally, I think there is WAY too much emphasis on finding this ideal level of happiness/subjective well-being. I am someone predisposed to a low level of subjective well-being. For most of my life, I’ve been chasing after this elusive high level of SWB. Frankly, I’ve come to a point where my highest level of SWB may never even be a low SWB of others. And I’m ok with that. I just wish this “happiness” theme would be less pervasive because I firmly believe that if we put less emphasis on it, it will be easier to increase. Just my two cents…


Katy April 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Of course everyone has their own state of equilibrium, but I truly do believe that people can choose to see their cups half-full instead of half empty. And without self-examination of happiness what is the point?



Marcy April 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I’m reading this staring at my wall calendar from work which this month has a picture and details on mental health and the statistics as follows:

Happiness is determined by 3 factors:

– 50% our genes
– 10% our life circumstances
– 40% our willingness and capacity to be happy.

Source is a study, but I can’t find it online to link. I take that to mean the 50% genes is our natural disposition as well as whether or not your physiological make up make predispose you to have clinical depression or other mental health issues.

But we still have control over a big chunk of our happiness.


Katy April 16, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Interesting stats!



Sarah April 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

You would have liked my 2 year olds choice of outfit yesterday then – in 34 degree C Darwin heat she was wearing a nappy and a knitted beanie:O. In truth, I don’t see that she will actually ever wear the beanie (retained from my own childhood) for it actual purpose so if she wants to wear it while she dances round the house I don’t see why not.

I agree with Ashley too, a clean and tidy house with a meal prepped makes me happy. Oh, and decluttering does too. Finding just one more thing I could do with out. I am reading a book (novel) at the moment that starts with a line from Horace “Happy is he to whom God has given with sparing hand, as much as is enough”.


Indigo April 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Happiness for me has always been about finding my balance. The balance between my need for quiet and alone and my need for fostering close friendships. My desire for order and sense and my desire to be laid back. There are infinite ways in which I am constantly finding the balance in my life and the scales are always shifting due to life’s demands, and the unexpected. Regardless of what life throws at me I’ve noticed that because I am more aware of what makes me happy I am better able to weather the inevitable storms and maintain that happiness by cultivating it.


Trish April 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

In a British movie I love, the French actress Jeanne Moreau said ‘life is too bloody awful to not be happy”. Seemed like words to live by. Life can be really awful – but I have lots of things I am grateful for and after I finally gave up an unfulfilling career I was determined to be happy!


Cate April 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I love seeing kids who have obviously dressed themselves, too. Galoshes are always a big giveaway, as are tutus!

I’m with your son 100%. My morning cup of tea makes my day. And an afternoon cup of tea? Even better. Even something like a really good apple is wonderful.


Katy April 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Thanks for the reminder to have another cup of tea!



namastemama April 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Oh Katy! I could weep about this subject. I have spent the last year or so in a job making me terribly unhappy and it is time to quit for my own well being. That said, I had to get out of the funk I was in, I worked both Sat and Sun. So I went out to the garden. I find incredible peace while growing my own food, assessing bugs and fungus. Argghhh! Pest and problems but they have a solution and growing one’s own food is also HOPEFUL. I spend an incredible amount of time starting plants from seed, fussing over them. Planting and then waiting, hoping, loving. But I don’t mind. It is not a chore. I don’t think people realize that you start in March for an August sun kissed nutritional dense tomato. Oh, pure bliss. Thanks so much for this blog post. It helps just to think about what makes me happy.


Katy April 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Your garden sounds wonderful!



Jennifer April 16, 2012 at 5:44 pm

That is a great observation! I am definitely happy when I eat good food. Also when I see my favorite flowers blooming in the front yard.


Dena April 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I grew up around a lot of difficulties.I decided long ago that my own well being was my own responsibility.That being mental or physical,I wouldn’t give over control to someone else.I don’t let what other people feel or think effect me.I know it’s like walking around with walls up all around you.But it works for me.I make a vocal declaration every morning that I am thankful and open to love.I am happy to say that I know who I am.And happier to say I know who I will never be.


Jo H. April 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Gretchen Rubin does a great job of taking happiness factors and distilling them into easily understood, simple ideas. “Be yourself” is one of the most important, in my opinion. (This requires that you know yourself, which isn’t always easy, either.) I highly recommend her website.

I keep myself positive by writing every evening what I’m grateful for that day. It’s only a line or two, but it makes me focus on the good. Even on bad days there are things to be thankful for.


Kira April 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm

My 4 year old daughter told me 3 weeks ago we need a flower garden. She dragged me outside, showed me just how ugly the privacy fence our neighbors have on our property line really is and said we needed to pretty it up a bit. We dug up a 20 foot strip of lawn in front of that fence, bought a few bags of soil and 25 random packets of seeds and just had fun gardening. No semblance of order. We dumped all 25 seed packets into a cereal bowl and planted. Everyday we play with the hose, count the new seedlings and admire the great job we did. Being outside everyday with my 4 year old is FUN.


Hilary (Mod Apron) April 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I find the more I let myself focus on how satisfying the little things are – a really good cup of coffee, a delicious afternoon nap, a walk in the fresh air, baby feet, hot tea and toast, stuff like that – the happier I am. Doesn’t the very best stuff in life all come down to the beautiful little details?


Katy April 17, 2012 at 6:00 am

Baby feet are the best. All those tiny toes!



Shelley April 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

I love Gretchen Rubin’s website and her book. I’m looking forward to her new book coming out. I definitely believe that we are all responsible for our own happiness and I can’t think of much more miserable than going around expecting others to make one happy.


Jennifer G. April 17, 2012 at 4:45 am

I subscribe to the philosophy that the world gives you what you expect.

Obviously, you can’t take this too literally…if I expect the world to give me a bundle of $100 bills from nowhere, I’m not going to get that.

But as far as attitude, and happiness, you get what you’re looking for.

If you expect the world and everything in it to be against you, you’ll notice those times when things aren’t going your way, and the world will be against you (in your own mind).

But if you expect and look for the good, it will come, too. And so will happiness.


Cathy April 17, 2012 at 4:46 am

Another wonderful book on this subject is “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar.


Priscilla April 17, 2012 at 5:44 am

I read the Happiness Project and really enjoyed it.

It is really the little things that make me happy – talking over the fence with a neighbor about our gardens, watching the little girls tell each other jokes and giggle, riding my bike around town, finding a pair of Eddie Bauer jeans in my size that are still stylish at Salvation Army, eating spinach that I grew.

(My daughter’s pre-school teacher said my daughter had a flair for pattern – flowers and plaid and polka dots all in one glorious outfit)


Practical Parsimony April 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm

My children as babies and school children (teens too) made me the happiest even when I was going crazy with being overworked. Being outdoors with my hens and a very green yard is bliss, multiplied 10 times by my swing. Helping people and seeing them overcome whatever stands in their way makes me happy. Chocolate, ice cream, and bananas make me happy, together or separately. Living as I choose is a decision to be happy. Friends have known and know hardships I have gone through and don’t understand how I can be so happy all the time. I am not happy all the time, but that small time being unhappy is not how I want to be, so I am cheerful in the midst of it all. I don’t have to be with others all the time to be happy. I think that helps since I am not always seeking out company. I suppose I like my own company and can just be happy. (I like others’ company, too.)


Jeremy April 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I agree that a great part of happiness comes down to choice. I happened upon your article at the right time. I’m dealing with a difficult situation at work, and tonight I will choose the right frame of mind to bring in the office tomorrow.

Thank You.


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