In a free society the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental right, correct? At first glance, that's what the US Declaration of Independence seems to indicate. However, is happiness the goal, or the fruit of a goal?
Darren Hardy, editor of Success Magazine says, "Happiness is not a pursuit; it's a choice. Happiness is a state of mind; obtainable at any time, in any moment of your choosing." Psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl says, "It's the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."
Happiness is not found in pursuing pleasure in an event(s), but it's about enjoying the journey. It is fine to feel pleasure, but this temporary condition should not be confused with happiness. Feelings of happiness and joy are produced by a pursuit of significance, purpose, and meaning in life.
Two specific actions are guaranteed to produce happiness: expressing gratitude and making someone else happy. First of all, when we are thankful, we allow no room for unthankful thoughts in our brain. Intentional gratefulness, including sitting down and making a list of things we can be thankful for, leaves no space for unhappiness to take root in our mind. Blessing someone else is also an automatic buster of unhappy thoughts. "It is better to give than to receive" always holds out when trying to find significance and meaning for your existence.
Experts evaluate levels of happiness by focusing on success in four main areas of life; 1) material abundance, 2) love and relationships, 3) health and well-being, and 4) spirituality. There are physical (biological) benefits to happiness. When you're contented, your brain functions better. Your immune system is optimized, neither aggressively producing too many chemicals and not too suppressed. disallowing foreign substances to invade the body. This balance is necessary for the health of the whole person.
Finding "success" in a particular venture, career, relationship, possession etc. doesn't necessarily mean you will be happy. Success must be defined holistically. Many people incorrectly believe that happiness comes from the types of things they own or the kind of career they pursue, but true happiness (peace and joy) is more about a person’s character than anything else. Happiness is not so much based on what you do, but who you are. For example, happiness cannot be based on the number and size of houses you own. After all, you can only live in one house at a time. You can only physically be in one room of one house at a time no matter how large it is and how many other "toys" there are in other rooms. Life's meaning is found in being present in each moment, with each person, in each place, making the most of each circumstance (fated by choice or otherwise). Inspirational speaker Jim Rohn says happiness must be woven. It must be woven with care. Happiness is created by intention and skill in weaving a basket strong enough to hold the fruit of good character. Rohn says, "You can be happy with what you got, while you pursue what you want." The more unfavorable your circumstances (ie. loss of job, house, relationship, status) the more challenging it may be to embrace this truth. Accepting a difficult circumstance (created by your own bad choices or the bad choices of others) can be a serious roadblock to overcome, but it CAN be overcome.
Dale Carnegie also contrasts success and happiness when he says, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” Happiness is in deciding to enjoy the journey more than the event. Misplaced expectations and misjudgments about happiness can create a lot of disappointment and frustration in life. But, no matter how desperate things appear, there is always something to be thankful for, some reason to find hope. For many, faith in God is a vital source of hope. Research has shown and it is commonly understood that faith is an important element in a person’s physical, emotional and mental health. A great proverb says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13). Spiritual health is an important element in a person’s overall health condition.
Happiness is not an entitlement. Desires and dreams are not enough to achieve happiness. Hope is not merely wishful thinking. True hope is, "Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises" (Webster's 1828 Dictionary) Happiness is realized when you combine confident expectation with things like gratitude, blessing other people, work ethic, eating well, and giving God his rightful place in your life.
I understand that some people reading this may feel they have tried all that and life still doesn't seem to contain the happiness they desire. If that is you, may I encourage you to seek help from a trusted friend or counselor to find some answers. My sincere hope is that you can find true happiness in your life today!
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.com
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry