My guess is most people have a complicated relationship with the concept of “happiness,” but I’ll speak for myself in saying that as someone living with mental health challenges, the way our society talks about happiness can be particularly difficult. Happiness is so often pitched, through news stories, cliche quotes, movie plots and more, as someting one “chooses,” almost as if through moral superiority or enlightenment.

When I’m feeling depressed, when self-loathing overcomes me, it feels impossible to “choose” happiness, and knowing that I “should” just makes me feel guilty for not being able to do so.

The quote below about happiness did really resonate with me though. Yes, I found it while Googling the very cliche quotes I dismissed above. While I think the societal/widespread idea of “overcoming challenges” and “choosing happiness” hurts our understanding of mental health and those living with mental health challenges, as a person I do enjoy seeking new perspectives and hanging on to a mantra or two. Disclaimer: I’m not familar Stephanie Dowrick or her work.

“Happiness can come in a single moment. And in a single moment it can go again. But a single moment does not create it. Happiness is created through countless choices made and then made again throughout a lifetime. You are its host as well as its guest. You give it form, shape, individuality, texture, tone. And what it allows you to give can change your world. Happiness can be stillness. But it isn’t still. It wraps, enchants, heals, consoles, soothes, delights, calms, inspires and connects. It is on your face and in your body. It is in your life and being.”

STEPHANIE DOWRICK, Choosing Happiness


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