We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are create equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. —— United States Declaration Of Independence
Most citizens of the United States of America understand that they have the right to pursue happiness. The key word here, of course, is the word “pursue,” in that no one is guaranteed their happiness. Each person is responsible for finding happiness for themselves. It is a principle that made the U.S. what it is today. But are people really pursuing their dreams or are they pursuing happiness? The two aren’t necessarily mutually inclusive. It’s possible that at one point or another, we have correlated the acquisition of our dreams with happiness.
Maybe you have said, “If I get a new job or if I buy a new house, I will be happy.” If that were true, and the fulfillment of dreams resulted in genuine happiness, then why are so many people living in large homes, driving expensive cars and visiting exotic destinations so miserable and unhappy?
Some experts suggest that happiness is not something you have or do, rather it’s something that you are.
So how do we find happiness? Do we find it at work? Do we find it while we are shopping? Do we find it on vacation or while we’re out to dinner? Do we find it when we are faced with adversity or a seemingly insurmountable challenge? Are we capable of being happy when we face the mortality of someone we love? The answer is yes – to everything we do, everyday. You may ask, “How do you expect me to be happy if I just lost my job and I’m going through a divorce! There are hundreds of reasons to be unhappy.” And you’d be right. There are many, many reasons to feel sad, rejected, alone or generally unhappy.
In other words, happiness is a mental choice you make everyday – no matter what circumstance you find yourself in. You do not negate what has happened to you. Acknowledge your feelings, process your emotions and then find gratitude in the people and the circumstances that bring you joy. It is of course, complicated. Happiness, like most concepts, sits on a continuum. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. There are degrees of happiness. Some people have an easier time seeing the world through an optimistic lens than others.
A study published in the journal Emotion, showed how seeking happiness at the right time may be more important than seeking happiness all the time. Instead, allowing yourself to feel emotions appropriate to a situation–whether or not they are pleasant in the moment–is a key to long-lasting happiness,” reports Greater Good.
You’ve also probably heard of something called the “chase” of glamour. It’s the never ending cycle of looking to inanimate objects to create internal happiness. There is science behind this faulty process too.
There’s no doubt that things provide us all with short term happiness. But Dr. Thomas Gilovich says, adaptation is the greatest enemy of happiness. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed, but only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” And then we are all on to the next thing.
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall is a 1944 song performed as a duet by The Ink Spots featuring Bill Kenny, and Ella Fitzgerald – a beautiful song which illustrates the nature of all of our lives. We will all experience both good and bad, joy and sorrow… It’s how we react to the triumphs and tragedies that matters most. “You always have the freedom to choose the manner in which you wish to approach any given situation,” says Dr Garcia Vega. This theory is backed up by Ingrida Geciene of Vilnius University, Lithuania, who researched the happiness of people in 31 European countries.
It’s not realistic to assume that every moment of every day for the rest of your life will be carefree and happy. No. Rather, the achievement of happiness is built upon how you choose to view the world and your circumstances as they evolve.