I have been reading recently Mark Setton, who is the founder and CEO of the Pursuit of Happiness Project…researching and studying what makes us happy…and conversely what makes us depressed!!! See www.pursuit-of-happiness.org. The study of Happiness today and its pursuit is possibly best known from the words written in 1776 and entrenched in the US Declaration of Independence…the words of Thomas Jefferson produced this famous line…”We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!!!”
Setton suggests that there has been much debate about what Jefferson meant in his ‘the pursuit of happiness” refrain. To many the simplistic explanation was meant the ‘pursuit of wealth or property”. But Jefferson was a student of the Greek Philosopher Epicurus and the fundamental beliefs of the Epicureans emphasized a simple life devoid of over-indulgence, and equated happiness with peace of mind. Jefferson concluded that happiness was the primary aim of life…and this was accomplished by cultivating friendships, minimizing self-interest, and rejoicing in the moment!!! A simple, yet powerful message that smashes depression with the power of happiness.
Martin Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology and writes that physical exercise and the performance of random acts of kindness have the most powerful impact on reducing depression and enhancing happiness…as does a simple walk in the woods…communing with nature instantly reduces stress. The pursuit of Peace of mind is a constant life challenge…
Here are the 7 Habits of Happy People as expressed in the POH Project:
- Express your Heart…people with one or more close friendships are happier…it’s not the number of friends that is important but how often we share our most personal feelings with that friend or relative. Many relationships would have been saved by greater sharing of our true feelings. But even that is somewhat limiting if we don’t listen to one another and respond in encouraging ways.
- Acts of Kindness…people who care for others are always happier. To reach out to help someone who is struggling often gives you a greater sense of self worth and therefore greater personal happiness.
- Exercise and Physical Well Being…keep moving and eat well…exercise blows away depression. There is now a proven link between excessive sugar consumption and depression…it’s called the ‘gut-brain’ connection. It takes discipline and motivation to protect that temple of yours…something happy people have in spades!!!
- Flow…Find your flow!!! As I write this the Raptors are about to play game five of the NBA finals…a remarkable achievement the results of which you will discover before you read this piece!!! The Raptor’s have found their FLOW!!! When our skills match our goals we can experience a joyful FLOW…that transcends any obstacle!!!
- Spiritual Engagement and Meaning…Discover Meaning in your life. Spirituality is closely related to the discovery of greater meaning in our lives. I know it’s not popular today to engage spirituality but Seligman says prayer and a spiritual focus leads to meditation which in turn calms the body, reduces stress and supports positive thinking…when I’m sometimes accused of daydreaming, not paying attention to the world around me, I am actually focusing on positive thoughts, on resolution of a stressful moment around me…I will try not to do that in a middle of an important board meeting again!!!
- Strengths and Virtues…Discover and use your strengths. The happiest people have discovered their strengths…discipline, persistence, resilience, determination, enthusiasm, and critical yet positive thinking…and use those strengths to deliver on a purpose greater and bigger than their own!!!
- Positive Mindset…well wouldn’t you know that the pursuit of happiness comes down to a little PMA!!! We need to treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope. Grateful people have been proven to have greater positive emotion. In the immortal words of Winston Churchill ‘a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity…the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’
In our world driven crazy by social media, the constant interruption of the cell phone and the expectation of immediate response and gratification …it’s no wonder that we struggle with the burdens of added stress and depression…raise up your happiness meter and go for a walk in the woods!!!