We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. US Declaration of Independence
Every year come July, we celebrate our wonderful and unique Declaration of Independence. I live right outside Philadelphia and frequently drive by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, so this document is near and dear to me on many levels. One phrase that I have been thinking about lately is "the pursuit of happiness." As a Life Coach and Retreat Leader, much of my work is helping people define what happiness means to them and how to invite it into their lives. So what does it mean that it is our God given right to pursue happiness.
Webster's Dictionary defines pursuit as "the act of following with haste either in sport or in hostility." Obviously, that isn't what our fore fathers were referring to as an inalienable right. Constantly chasing after something inherently implies never achieving it and going after it in the spirit of competition and enmity is to me the antithesis of harmony and happiness.
Looking further, I learned that at the time this document was written, the word pursue commonly meant "to practice regularly, to make a habit." That rang a bell with me. I've been reading about the brain's plasticity and neuroscientists now believe that the brain can rewire itself to think, feel, and act in different ways. Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has even said, "Based on what we know of the plasticity of the brain, we can think of things like happiness and compassion as skills that are no different from learning to play and instrument or tennis... it is possible to train our brains to be happy." Habitual thoughts and behaviors have worn groves in the neural pathways of our brain. The pursuit of happiness, therefore, means practicing happiness regularly, making it a habit, and reprogramming our brains by creating new emotional pathways.
Another common misbelieve is that happiness is a result of the perfect external conditions, achievements, and acquisitions. Not far from Independence hall, at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman's work in the field of Positive Psychology has shown that actually only 10% of our capacity for happiness is dependant upon external circumstances! 50% percent of our happiness propensity is genetic and 50% is learned. Of the 50% learned, only 10% is determined by our circumstances. The other 40% is determined by our habitual thoughts, feeling, words, and actions. That 40% is what we have to power to change!
So how can we learn to be happy? It takes practice, practice, practice. Here are three exercises to get started: the POH of the Pursuit of Happiness
1. Power of positive thinking: Choose to stop your negative self talk. You have about 60,000 autonomic thoughts a day. 95% of these thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday, and the day before that. 80% of these habitual thoughts are negative! Our negative self-talk is so powerful, it overwhelms all other input. It therefore takes numerous positive experiences to overcome a single negative one. You know not to believe everything you read. Well, don't believe everything you think either. Every time you start brow beating yourself, choose to consciously flip the switch and instead give voice to your true self that knows you're competent, intelligent, motivated, and good. For each negative thought, state three positive qualities that you possess and start creating a new neural pathway.
2. Open your heart and share the best of you with others: Some people mistakenly believe that prioritizing ones own happiness is self indulgent but it's quite the contrary. Happy people are more giving, outgoing, flexible and creative, where as unhappy people are more self-consumed and socially withdrawn. So which comes first the chicken or the egg? Does serving others make you happy or does being happy better enable you to be of service? What difference does it make! Just reach out and start giving!
3. Honor the Self: Be gentle and forgiving toward your self. Practice self kindness. You cannot give what do you not have or have never experienced. First, you need to compassionately embrace your Self; that means unconditionally loving and approving of your innermost being. This is the keystone that supports all gateways toward personal growth, fulfillment, and happiness.
Aristotle said, "Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." True happiness is not a fleeting pleasure but a sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and the glorious blossoming of our innate potential. This is our inalienable right as human beings and to pursue that end is our duty.
About the Author
Karin Marcus, Certified Life Coach / Retreat Leader
"Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do" Rumi
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Article Source: http://goarticles.com/article/Ways-to-Pursue-Happiness/978483/