The Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness – it is considered so essential to our well-being that the founders of our democracy enshrined the pursuit of it in the Declaration of Independence as a basic right, along with life and liberty. Yet, as Benjamin Franklin famously said:
“The constitution only gives you the right to pursue happiness, you have to catch it yourself”
So, how do we ‘catch’ happiness? Buying those cute jeans might give us a quick shot of elation, but most of us agree lasting happiness cannot be bought in a boutique or found in a new car lot. While cultivating happiness is a somewhat subjective pursuit, as it means different things to different people, there are several ways you can regularly promote a state of happiness. Research has shown that the following 6 habits contribute to our sense of well-being:
1. Give Thanks
Intentionally find reasons to be thankful. For example, recognizing the blessing of friends and family, health, or a beautiful sunset. Just three intentional expressions of gratitude a day can improve your mood.
2. Be Kind
Research has found that participants who spent money on others reported greater feelings of happiness than those who spent money on themselves. If you are looking to boost your happy quotient, put off buying those designer jeans and instead buy a gift for a loved one. Or donate to a cause that resonates with you.
3. Get Moving
Exercise... especially when you do not feel like it. Physical activity enhances feelings of happiness in numerous ways:
It releases ‘happy chemicals’ into your brain
It helps you de-stress
It gives you more energy
It eases anxiety
It helps with depression
4. Spend time with loved ones
Research shows having strong ties to friends and family is a essential to our happiness. Spend time with your loved ones. And when you cannot see them in person, use your social media in a positive way to connect with those special people in your life.
Find an activity that ‘fills your bucket’. This could mean pursuing a hobby that challenges you, such as playing an instrument or learning to crochet; or it could be as simple as taking a walk and enjoying the sounds of nature. Finding purpose in your work or participating in volunteer activities is another way to create meaningful pursuits and boost your level of life satisfaction.
6. Go Zen
Create a habit of connecting with yourself and engaging spiritually, whether through meditation, journal writing, or prayer. You can practice mindfulness by becoming aware of your core self, thoughts, and feelings. Where you are able, guide yourself towards optimism and hopefulness. If you feel stuck, reach out to a friend or seek professional help to move in a new direction.
Of all the emotions we experience, happiness feels so good - who wouldn’t want to feel happy all the time? But life is full of ups and downs. We wouldn’t know the joy of life’s highs if we didn’t also know the lows of loss. Making your goal to feel happy all the time is only setting yourself up for disappointment. But incorporating some intentional habits, like the ones described above, can increase your happiness quotient and bring joy into your life and the lives of those you touch in the process.