It is our constitutional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now, if only this came with a specific set of instructions. I’m fairly certain that our fore-fathers long ago wrote these words with the best of intentions. I have a feeling they may have been happier then we are today even while living in world without TVs, computers and smart phones. The pursuit of happiness concept can seem a bit tricky. I will define “happiness” as “contentment” or “satisfaction” but with an edge of meaningfulness and purpose to it.
There exists a lot of good research on what really makes us “happy,” and some of it may surprise you. Some of us are in fact, born happier than others. But, how much of a role does our genetics play in our degree of happiness or unhappiness? It may actually be close to half! Yikes!!! However, before you decide to completely blame biology for your misery, keep reading.
“Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” - Democritus
How many of you have said to yourself, if I only had ______ I would be happy. If you haven’t ever said this to yourself, you are lying! The truth is that in the short term, you might be happier, but then we generally return to our previous level of happiness thereafter. This is akin to the “set point” theory of weight. It seems there is one for happiness too.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” – Khalil Gibran
If you have never experienced pain, you will not know what happiness is either. A person must experience a full range of emotions life has to offer. Sometimes painful and tragic things happen to us is that are unavoidable. It should not, however, prevent us from obtaining happiness again.
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness brings happiness. This is a powerful tool for staying in the present moment that brings about happiness. I believe that looking at the past makes a lot of people depressed and looking too far into the future makes people anxious. It is much more productive to stay focused on the here and now. Akin to mindfulness is the concept of “flow.” This is a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment when you are savoring the present moment. This happens when we are deeply engaged in a sport, activity or hobby.
“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Happiness lies in the “chase.” Action toward goals is what makes us happy. Once you meet that goal, chances are you are going to create more goals to pursue. I emphasize the plural – goals.
“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” – Albert Einstein