9 Choices to Happiness

Oct 4, 2023

Early in my healing journey, I came across a team of Researchers by the name of Foster and Hicks and their 9 Healthy Choices that help transform challenging situations into happiness. Today, I want to break down these choices.  


We all know that intention is only half the battle, but intention is half the battle. Setting clear intentions is the first step in any healthy thing we can do. These intentions should act as an anchoring point for us so that when we inevitably stray off course, these intentions bring us back to ourselves so that we can carry on.

The Foster and Hicks research showed that when facing difficult challenges in life, those who set a clear intention to actively desire and commit to being happy were happier! While acceptance of the circumstances we’re in plays a big factor, simply accepting isn’t enough. We need something more to keep us going. Which is making the intentional choice to look for happiness, no matter what we’re going through. A great question to ask yourself when facing difficulty is: what attitude will best enhance the quality of this experience right now?


Accountability is the partner to Intention. These two have to rely on each other in order to be successful. Intention is a personal or private commitment, while accountability is a public commitment. And this doesn’t mean blasting all over social media, but it does mean selecting a few trusted people and inviting them into your world.

It’s definitely a vulnerable step, but it’s also an action step. Meaning that once you’ve gone from private to public, it’s real, you’ve taken a step, people know, and there’s an aspect of healthy outside validation and expectation now. Accountability is ultimately what helps us take action steps towards growth and healing. A reflection question for accountability is: what changes in your actions will help this experience?


Identification is the choice to pay attention. Observing how your actions and behaviors contribute to your overall contentment and happiness is an ongoing process. Are your actions leaving you with a deep sense of fulfillment? 

It’s about more than just doing things that offer surface-level happiness, but identifying the things that fuel you at a soul level and taking it a step further by learning how to fit those soul-feeding things into your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lives. Base level happiness is great, but deep fulfillment keeps us going and makes us healthier people.


Centrality is all about centering yourself. Usually, when we use that phrase, we’re talking about taking a deep breath in a difficult moment, but taking it a step further, centrality is a daily practice of intentionally setting aside time to focus on the thoughts and behaviors that generate your happiness.

This can look like a daily prayer or meditative practice, reading a book, playing with your kids, snuggling a pet, or journaling a gratitude list. What are the practices that help your body produce happy chemicals, calm your nervous system, and remind you that there is goodness in the world? Identify those and make a point to practice them daily.


Recasting is a two-step process. The first step is to dive into the negative experience rather than run away. Essentially, allow yourself to feel that negative emotion fully. What does it actually feel like to sit in it?

Step two begins once you’ve actually fully felt the emotion and can ask yourself, “Is there a different way to look at this experience?” Look for ways this experience could become beneficial and even meaningful. This allows you to recast something negative as a positive and builds resilience when new challenges arise. 


One of the fastest ways to feel stuck in life is by limiting your options. Oftentimes, we tend to assume our feeling stuck is because we don’t have any other options. But the truth is we always have options, however, we can self-sabotage by refusing to see the options available to us.

Really, what we’re fighting against is a demanding or unrealistic expectation. By demanding life work out in a specific way, that things go in a certain direction, we limit our ability to flexibly adapt to life and seek out creative solutions and opportunities.


Appreciation is vital for growth. Not just the general definition of observing and acknowledging the small and big things that happen in our day-to-day lives. But also in broadening that definition.

The people who experience the most happiness in their lives are those who very clearly see the contrast in life: light and dark, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, slow and fast, soft and loud. By heightening their awareness of this contrast and appreciating it, they can, see each moment for what it is: a gift of life. 


There is so much research to support that giving is one of the most profound ways of healing our own stories. Giving back allows us to become selfless in a healthy way. It creates greater empathy and takes out of the tunnel vision of our own circumstances.

When we give from our soul without expecting anything in return, we remember that ultimately, we aren’t here just to consume and take, but to improve the lives of those around us and make the world a better place. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “One of the most beautiful compensations of this life is that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”


Truth is power. Truth is freedom. More often than not, when we find ourselves in the darkest parts of our stories, we aren’t focused on truth. Our internal conversations become the place where we tell ourselves lies about our loved ones, ourselves, and our circumstances. 

Practicing truthfulness is challenging at first, but it does get easier. When you feel or think something negative, ask how true the statement is. Sometimes, we hide big lies in half-truths. Our circumstances might be less than ideal right now, but what other lies are you packing onto that truth? As you begin to identify the lies you tell yourself, start speaking the truth to yourself with a voice of love and compassion. 

I hope these 9 Steps to Happiness have as much of a profound impact on you as they’ve had on me.