Small Choices…Better Days
Can we choose to be happier even in the midst of this pandemic?
By Martha E. Fagan, RN, BSN
Many, or most, of us pay particular attention to the big choices in our lives: “What will I do for work? Will I get married? Will I have children? Where will I make my home? What is my calling?” These are all very important decisions and have a significant impact on where we find ourselves physically and emotionally.
Today, though, I want to explore the smaller choices we face in every moment of every day. Most likely we think little about these small decisions, making them without mindfulness or deliberation…sometimes even without the awareness we’re even choosing. Yet psychological research has shown us that these small choices are just as important as the big ones.
Our well-being and happiness very much depend on our momentary choices. To choose is to create. Our choices create our reality. Small choices can make a world of difference!
Let’s be honest…we’re all facing Covid-fatigue. As we lose our patience with this process our choices become more important than ever. Last week I encouraged us to choose to view our circumstances through a lens of curiosity, this week let’s talk about why choices in the moment can be key to how we get through this, our long-term happiness, and our resilience.
In her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, best-selling author and prize-winning psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky explains that, on average, our well-being can be seen as three parts of a pie:
- 50% of our well-being is determined by our genes or very early experiences (things we don’t really have control over); this is our Genetic Set Point.
- Another 10% is determined by demographic variables such as where you live, marital status, income, health, etc.—our Life Circumstances. Many people pursue goals here, mistakenly thinking better life circumstances will have a large impact on their level of happiness and well-being.
- The remaining 40% is determined by our thoughts, actions, choices, attitudes—our Intentional Activities. We can/should focus here. “Will I exercise? Will I play with my children? Do I strive to achieve goals?
Am I grateful? Do I look on the bright side? Do I have/seek nurturing relationships? Do I experience and savor joyful moments?”
Think about the third slice of this pie for a moment…our small everyday choices have a large impact on our overall life happiness. Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, a leading educator in the field of Positive Psychology, reminds us: “At every moment in your life you have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life.”
So small choices help our days be better and ours days string together to make our life. Small choices can be game changers.
We can choose…
to focus on faults OR
to find benefits
to take things for granted OR
to appreciate the good around us
to perceive failure as a catastrophe OR
to understand failure is a learning opportunity
to run away from challenges OR
to courageously face challenges
to be cynical and sarcastic OR
to be open and sincere
to reject/suppress difficult emotions OR
to accept and fully experience emotions
to be mean and dismissive OR
to be kind and understanding
to gloss over the world around us OR
to be mindful of life’s treasures and wonders
Why not begin now? Take a moment to think about these powerful choices and then decide how you will face the next small decision you make today.
While we’re social distancing and soon facing re-entering society in a limited way the choices we make about how we handle ourselves is key to our health and well-being. We will remember this time…and if lucky enough to come through it with health, may we also come through it with some good memories of our small choices.
Martha Fagan is the Vice Chair of the Bacon Free Library. She may be reached through her email her at [email protected]