How I Redefine 'Happiness Is a Choice' as Someone With Depression

I see it all the time. I even have a fridge magnet with these exact words printed on it in cute fonts and bright colors. But what does it mean? When we say just “choose happy,” we make it sound like we have a simple choice. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be sad, we can choose to allow our mental illness to consume us. Like it’s a choice, like it’s what we want. It’s almost offensive.

Instead of choosing to be happy, I’ve decided to choose to make choices that are good for me. Good for me physically, good for me mentally. I don’t say this lightly, it is tough. It is so difficult sometimes.

I choose to take my medication. I don’t particularly like it. I struggle with accepting I need it. But I know it makes a difference, I know it makes me feel better. So, I do it.

I choose to communicate. With my family and with my friends. Even when it’s hard, even when it’s uncomfortable and confronting. I do it because I have learned the hard way sharing how I feel and sharing the issues I am facing makes them easier to face.

I choose to exercise. My volleyball team sucks and it’s bloody hot up here all the time. But I know I feel better after it. I know playing volleyball makes me happy and I know getting outside is good for me.

I choose to clean my room and make my bed. I am incredibly lazy when it comes to housework. In that sense, I am a terrible housemate. But I know walking into a messy room makes me feel anxious, so I tidy it. I vacuum my floor and I put my clothes away. I do it because it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. It makes my room feel like a safe place to be.

I choose to only drink coffee in the morning. I love coffee. I could drink it all day. But I know I’ll be awake all night with a racing heart rate. And I know that’s not good for me.

I choose to eat food that tastes good and makes me feel good. This includes chocolate. But I know that I’ll have more energy and I’ll be happy with myself if I am treating my body well.

I choose to spend time with people who are good for my mental health. Even when all I want to do is be alone. I’m lucky I have people who are happy to just hang out without needing to do anything. I know that surrounding myself with people who are supportive will lift me up and reassure me when I need it. I know sometimes all I need is to just sit with someone. I know when I isolate myself, I overthink situations and get into a vicious cycle of negative thinking.

That’s how I’m “choosing to be happy.” I don’t always get it right, I don’t always follow my own rules, but each day I get better at making good choices and improving my mental health.

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