June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Pursuit of happiness

By Mona Jacobson

Special to The Gazette

In your days as a student, did you study or perhaps even memorize “The Declaration of Independence”? Remember the phrase, “the pursuit of happiness”? I find it strange that of all the things the authors of this document could have found as a common “unalienable right,” they chose this as one.

The drafters were wise in understanding we must indeed pursue our own happiness. While it is true our genes impact our happiness levels, it is just as true we are able to boost our happiness by things we chose to do.

Should you decide to work at kicking up your happiness a notch, it’s imperative to understand you should not make your goal the achievement of happiness itself. That’s like trying to fall asleep and simply lying there willing it to happen rather than focusing on relaxing, making your room cool and dark, etc.

If we could cook up a batch of happiness, we would need to combine solid relationships, gratitude and the ultimate sweetener, hope. Research concludes people’s happiest experiences come from close relationships. It is first necessary to seek people out. Friends, family and spouses certainly can provide this ingredient, but it is our responsibility to cultivate and nurture these associations to a satisfying level of intimacy.

Learn to appreciate things to their fullest. Learn to be present in the moment. Look into the eyes of your child and celebrate the wonder of his existence. Inhale the scent of fresh rain and allow it to soothe you. Step out into the night and gaze at the magnificence of the stars. Treat life experiences like the first bite of your favorite food — the longer you savor it, the longer the good feeling lasts.

Accent the positive. When someone yields to you in traffic, pass it on. If you are blessed with monetary goods, bless someone less fortunate. Share your talent for music with someone who needs her mood lifted. Visit someone in the hospital, jail or nursing home. Doing things that bring others joy in turn will bring you joy.

Be mindful of how you have been blessed each day. Before you lay your head on your pillow every night, recount the good things that have graced your day. This will help you see your life as a perpetual gift. What a sustainer of happiness that can be!

Don’t forget to take advantage of being a copycat. Ask others what makes them happy and then try it for yourself. Even if it doesn’t work for you, you can still increase your happiness by being happy about what works for them.

When all else fails, fake it. If you wake up like a bear coming out of hibernation, greet everyone with a cartoon smile and see if it isn’t contagious. Soon it will be the genuine item, and you will feel as happy as you were acting.

There are so many things in life we cannot change, so isn’t it wonderful we can choose to pursue a higher level of happiness?

Jacobson is a licensed professional clinical Christian counselor in private practice in Westfield Center. She may be reached by e-mail at jacobsonmg@neo.rr.com or by calling 330-421-0857.