Have you heard? You can choose to be happy. That’s right. If you’re sitting around right now all depressed and unhappy it’s just because you’re not choosing the right path. You’re not choosing to be happy.
I find this concept to be absolute hokum and incredibly insulting to anyone with depression – an actual brain disorder.
Choosing to Be Happy
Many people have written about this concept of “choosing” to be happy. People suggest things like positive affirmations (which I think are mostly nonsense), forcing smiles, gratitude, and meditation (which I find helpful for some with anxiety and stress but not depression). And maybe these things are really useful for people without a mental illness, I don’t know, I’m not one of them. What I do know if that people with actual mental illnesses do not choose to be sick and cannot choose not to be sick either.
Choosing to Be Unhappy
I would say it’s more accurate to say that you can choose to be unhappy but that unhappiness is not necessarily a choice. In other words, you can do things to sabotage your own happiness (like making certain life choices that do not facilitate your happiness or choosing to always see the negative rather than the positive) but that all the right choices in the world won’t necessarily make you happy if you have depression. Because believe me, I know how to make good choices and use every psychological technique in the world to “increase happiness” and depression still kicks my ass.
And that’s because you cannot choose the way your brain works. You can do what you can to mitigate its effects, but in the end, an organ is not you choice. No one would say you can choose to make you pancreas work successfully and your brain is just another organ. So don’t let the myth of “choosing” to be happy make you feel even worse about yourself. You’re not doing anything wrong if you’re not happy with depression. You just have a brain disorder. It’s not your fault.