We tell ourselves a lot of stories about happiness.
Our brains invent very elaborate cognitive strategies to tell us who can be happy, when and why. No one can be happy in an economic downturn, no one could be happy in a children's cancer ward, no one could be happy with his job, etc.
There are definitely times that my brain tells me, "it's not possible to be happy right now." But if happiness is impossible in a certain situation, then two corollaries have to also be true.
First, the external world predicts 100% of my happiness.
Second, no one in my position has ever or would ever feel happy.
Neither of those things hold true.
In the last decade, researchers have discovered that only 10% of our happiness is predicted by the external world. So much more of our happiness is based on how our brain interprets that world, and how we choose to respond to it.
Moreover, I am shocked how often we tell ourselves happiness is impossible when that is so clearly factually inaccurate. With everything going on, you know it's impossible to be happy in this economy.
In a down economy, it is easy to feel anxious or depressed. That may even be the average response to an economic downturn. But just because it is average does not mean that it is required of our brains.
If there are people in the world in our circumstances that would maintain an optimistic outlook and cheerfully connect with people, then our happiness story can be revised. If there are people who miss a flight but are still happy, then I cannot tell myself it is impossible to be happy in this circumstance.
It merely requires work.
If there are people in a struggling business, in a cancer ward, in a poor inner-city school who remain positive, we are left with two choices. We can ignore that fact and assume that happiness is beyond our reach, or we can change our philosophy. I vote for the latter, based on another scientific fact: if your brain is positive, it makes you better at overcoming those challenges in your world.
People who tell us happiness is impossible imprison us in illusion. Positive individuals break the tyranny of our stories about happiness, because they show us that the external world does not dictate the terms of our happiness.
The truth is there have been positive people even in some of the most horrific situations in history.
And thus, happiness is a verifiable, scientific possibility.