There is a bit of a myth that happy people are naturally lucky and stuff just magically goes their way, that they are treading an easier or shinier path than most. Whilst sometimes there is a grain of truth in this, I have to say I generally observe the opposite.

Happier people, or the deliberately happy, tend to be those who have been through some tremendous suffering or trauma of some sort. Or indeed multiple traumas. The kind of circumstances that change their lives forever.

I have worked with some deliberately happy people who have been through unimaginable horrors. Loss of a child. Father killed in a car accident. Son addicted to P and a course of self-destruction. Bankruptcy. The most vile custody battle imaginable. Falsely imprisoned. Horrendous marital, emotional abuse. Loss of a limb. Rape. Victimised at work to the point of a court case. The list goes on.

Bad stuff happens to good people. All. The. Time.

Yet, after time and support for deep grief and processing, many of these people go on to be the most deliberately happy people I know. They gain a new perspective on happiness from the depths of their suffering. Their happiness becomes the veritable phoenix from the ashes.

When life or God or Fate or The Universe or just other people messing with your life deals you a bad hand, an interesting thing can happen. Either it can be the circumstance that goes on to define your whole life. Or it can be an experience that will always mark you, still be part of you, but that you take that pain and use it as the raw material to craft a more present and happy life.

When there has been significant suffering from monumental life events, there comes a natural release of grip on trying to control the small things in life. We will tend to lighten up and not sweat the small stuff so much. We will realise that happiness is but fleeting, and it can only be felt now, now, now. In this moment right here, here, here. We will get better at appreciating whatever is good in this moment, this moment right now, actively seeking it out and giving silent thanks for it. Knowing that the days may be long but the years are short, so sucking up the joy present in the little things, the small, seemingly insignificant moments that make up each day. Knowing that the small things – the smile shared, the bedtime story, the hand held, really are the big things.

It is not that happy people have not known pain and suffering, it is that they eventually recognise its tremendous perspective shifting power. That they don’t get forever stuck in their grief; they gradually start to transcend it. They know how dark the darkness can be and so they actively seek the light in whatever is presented to them. They see the alternative, and they face forward not back.

Being happy on purpose can be our greatest act of defiance in the face of tremendous pain suffered.

Choosing to be happy despite what’s happened can be our greatest act of resistance against those who would bring us low. Deliberate happiness can be the greatest show of strength there is.