Saturday, April 13, 2013

Written on April 10,2013    Terry Breadon
Do you believe you have a right to be happy?  The Declaration of Independence tells us we do “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Why then are we a nation of unhappiness? What is happiness?  Is it attainable? Abe Lincoln believed it was up to us how happy we were when he said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”
In his book “Happier” Tal Ben- Shahar said that research shows that people that make a good income, of up to $250,000 seem to be happier but people with incomes substantially higher than that tend to be less happy.  I guess the lesson could be that living comfortable is important to our well being and happiness but there seems to be a point where too much more than that causes stress and unhealthy priorities?  
In his book “Thrive” Dan Buettner says according to his advisory team the average person can control about forty percent of his or her individual happiness by optimizing life choices. These aren’t unreasonable demands on a person’s lifestyle, and they often require only slight changes. He says they fall into three categories that make up the way we live our lives: the food we eat, the way we exercise, and the social networks we foster. It’s all about nourishing the body and the spirit.
Most everyone has experienced happiness at some time or another but is lasting happiness possible. Khalil Gibran wrote “joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”   Buddhist teachings speak of sukha (happiness) and dukha (suffering) and it’s best to reside in the middle not attached to either. How do you do that? Like everything in life it takes practice.  We aspire for an ideal and intentionally move towards it.
Without sounding like Debby Downer I have to remember when everything seems perfect in my life and I am happy naturally, I cannot cling to that feeling because the ebb and flow of life dictates that it is not lasting.  The practice is to accept that truth (but not dwell on it or become sad about it ) and be prepared to deal with whatever comes my way. 
What makes you happy?  Has it changed over the years?  Research also shows that as life progresses our priorities change.  It has also shown that most people admit that they feel happiest when they are serving others.  Ghandi said “We find ourselves by losing ourselves in service to others.”  Happiness as Abe Lincoln said is a choice.  So the choice is yours