Five Ways to Happiness
By Victor S. Sierpina, MD
The following is from our Declaration of Independence:
“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.”
We are daily challenged to be happy in a world in which media streams disasters and threats from near and far and in which an optimistic and cheerful person is suspect. With the always desperate international situation, how can we expect to be happy? If we are, we must be out of touch with reality, right?
In his recent book, Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Andrew Weil reminds us that it is normal and healthy to experience a range of moods and emotions both positive and negative. Rather than trying to achieve constant happiness, we can cultivate contentment, comfort, serenity, and resilience. The Chinese sage, Lao Tsu offered the following insight, “The man who knows enough is enough, will always have enough.” If we always seek to have and be more, happiness forever remains just out of our grasp. Comparing ourselves constantly to the possessions or accomplishments of others is a path to misery and cynicism, not to happiness.
So here are five simple techniques to build happiness into your life in the year ahead.
- Forgive—nothing has the capacity to keep you in an unhappy state more than persisting anger and resentment toward another person. Release these unhappy memories. Perhaps the person was doing the best they could, given their state of consciousness and personal maturity at the time.
- Laugh–no matter how bad things seem, find some humor in the situation. You will find that your resilience and ability to cope will increase. It will help those around you and you’ll find happiness can be contagious. Recall Solomon’s proverb, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”
- Visualize—use the power of your mind to dwell on positive images, outcomes, or scenes from nature. See prosperity, generosity, joy, and hope around every corner and soon you will meet them in your life. The mind is a powerful tool to attract that which we think about so be vigilant to put your attention on what you want, not what you don’t want.
- Empathize—perform random acts of kindness, altruism, and service in your daily life. Do these without expectation of recognition or return but know this will help others and lessen your own sense of isolation and loneliness.
- Socialize—we are social creatures and thrive in communities. Volunteering in churches, fraternal organizations, and charitable groups helps us make connections with each other, decreases depression, and improves happiness and self worth.
Practice any of one these 5 tips in the week ahead and you’ll soon find yourself “in the pursuit of happiness.” And reflect on the quote from the poem, Desiderata:
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.”