Happiness is a Choice
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly established March 20 annually as The International Day of Happiness. Isn’t it great that now that we have holidays to remind us to tell those around us that we love them, to honor those that gave the supreme sacrifice, to show our patriotism, to honor our veterans, to give thanks for our blessings, and to remember the birth, and resurrection, of a man that over 2 Billion people today recognize as the son of God, that we can now also have a holiday to remind us “to be Happy.”
I discovered this holiday while researching articles for my Bringing Hope And Happiness website.
So let’s take a look at what happiness is.
Webster’s defines it as “A state of well-being, contentment, joy.
But I take exception to their secondary definition of “a pleasurable or satisfying experience” because I consider that to be elation.
Happiness isn’t found in a moment, it’s found in a life; a life that seeks to be filled with moments of elation.
And who should be happier than Americans?
I personally believe happiness can be related to Maslow’s Hierarchy Pyramid of Needs.
At the base of the pyramid we find our physiological needs; those things that are at the base of our primal instincts. Air, water, food, clothing and shelter. When I look at these, I truly believe 95% of you have met these basic needs. Remember, the key word is needs, not wants.
The next level of the pyramid is Safety needs; Personal security, financial security, health and well-being and a safety net against accidents and illness.
Yes, I know the media bombards us continuously with home intrusions, the drop of the stock market, and what the newest finding has shown that leads to cancer or death to laboratory rats.
But compared to the rest of the world, I still think that at least 90% of you have met this need.
The third level is to have and share a sense of love and belonging, especially through friendship, Intimacy and Family. The first two levels are basic, but now we’re getting into the interpersonal, the intrinsic values that I feel contribute greatly to happiness. About 85% of you have met this need.
The fourth level is Esteem: Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. Let’s remember the difference between Esteem and Ego, the latter of which I personally think we have seen enough of in the past 3 months with the Presidential campaigns. The whole concept of having good self-esteem can not only bring you happiness, but can also make it easier to bring hope and happiness to others. At least 60% have this confidence.
And then at the very top of the pyramid we find Self-actualization. After we have met our basic physiological and safety needs, have come to a point of feeling love and belonging, and all of these have given us good, constructive self-esteem, we can reach a point of true happiness. Not just for a moment, but as our paradigm. And we will be able to share this happiness with all around us. Many of you hopefully have reached this pinnacle.
So considering all the opportunities that we have, all the blessings, wouldn’t you think we should be some of the happiest people in the world?
Well the United Nations also had surveys done by Gallup World Poll in which they ranked the countries for happiness on a scale of 1 to 10..Six key variables were used that accounted for three-quarters of that country’s national average These six factors were: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
So where do you think we finished? Surely In the top 15?
No, we didn’t quite make the top 15. Five of the top 8 spots are Scandinavian countries. That didn’t really surprise me.
Let’s take a look at those key variables again.
Real GDP, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
OK, what does shock me is that Colombia came in at #10, Israel at #11, and, I’m glad you’re all sitting down, at #14 is Mexico. If that gets out, THEY’RE going to be the ones building a wall to keep US out!
OK, so surely we finished in the top 25, right?
Nope, but Oman is at #22 and Venezuela at #23.
So I guess we have to settle for being in the top 50 of 150 countries?
Not so fast my friend. We’re not! But we do find Argentina at #27, Cyprus at #34 and South Korea is #41.
We have to drop down to #69 to find the USA. Ahead of us we find Poland #51, Malaysia #55, Angola #60, Vietnam #62 and the one that really grieves me to report, Russia at #67.
After studying how the rankings were determined, I am fully convinced that I know why the USA ranks so far down. It’s because the common denominator for happiness is EXPECTATION. It’s only by exceeding Expectation, that we find happiness.
In the USA, we feel deprived if we don’t have a 16 oz. steak and baked potato. In Mexico, they are happy to have a little chicken with their rice and beans. In the USA, we expect to drive a $40,000 vehicle. In Viet Nam, they are happy to have a bicycle to get them to work.
In the USA, we all want to live the American dream. We don’t just expect it, we feel ENTITLED to it. But the closest too many Americans come to working for the American Dream is to stop their $40,000 vehicle down to the store to buy their 100 Power Ball tickets once the jackpot gets over $50 million.
Remember, the Declaration of Independence promises us the “pursuit of happiness”. It doesn’t promise us the Government will gift wrap it and deliver to our front door while we sit in our Barclay Recliner watching our 60-inch Plasma Flat-Screen. The Preamble to the Constitution states the government will “promote the general welfare”, it doesn’t mean we can all go on it.
So in order for our nation to find happiness, we must change our paradigm. We need to regain the passion, the hunger, of our founding fathers as they fought courageously against overwhelming obstacles to make us the nation that we are. We must learn to count our blessings.
There are several websites you can go to calculate your happiness factor. The bad news is, 40% of your happiness factor is predetermined. It’s based on your DNA, your childhood. But the good news is, ONLY 40% is predetermined. You CAN change the remaining 60%.
Following are my Bringing Hope and Happiness keys for doing so:
Happiness doesn’t come to us, we must go to it. It’s not a gift, it’s a choice. But the wonderful news is once we find it, it becomes plentiful. So much so, that we can’t help but share it with others. And as we share it, our’s becomes even more abundant.
We must live in the now. Many people say they live by the axiom “Carpe Diem”, seize the day, but I say we must “Carpe Articulum”, seize the moment. Take time to sit on a park bench. Smell the flowers. Watch the young children at play. And Heaven forbid, even take your shoes and socks off and walk through the grass. I invite you to go back and watch my previous blog http://bringinghopeandhappiness.com/seeing-beauty-in-the-simple-things/
Find every opportunity to smile and laugh. Research has shown that merely smiling into a mirror relieves stress. Find every opportunity to smile and laugh. Research has shown that merely smiling into a mirror relieves stress. Watch old episodes of Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy. Let yourself go. Have belly laughs at the predicaments Barnie and Lucy gets themselves into.
Make new friends, and develop better fellowship with current friends and family that are optimistic. Cut or minimize ties with those that bring you down. Network.
Improve your physical well-being. Walk at least 1 mile a minimum of 3 times a week. Improve your diet by planning your diet and buying only foods that are good for you. Remember, your body is a temple, so stop defiling it.
Give to others. Not just money, but even more importantly of your time. Find a cause you believe it, and volunteer there. Always remember, there are others that are much less fortunate than you. Those who are struggling to overcome handicaps. Reach out to them and share your blessings with them. One of Judy’s and my passions is the Warming Station, a homeless shelter in Pulaski. At least two weeks during the winter, Judy makes their meals for a week. During the year we hold at least two fund raisers to help pay the monthly rentals of the facility. Our goal is to pay the entire winter’s rental. I invite you to go back and watch my blog http://bringinghopeandhappiness.com/make-a-difference/
Never stop learning. Sign up for daily emails to jump start your day. My favorites are ” M-W’s Word A Day”, John C. Maxwell’s “A Minute with Maxwell” and Darren’s Hardy’s “Darren’s Daily.” My personal happiest moments are spent in Barnes and Noble (over 100 hours annually) researching success and motivational books and magazines. Sign up for a course you never dreamed of taking. Learn a new language.
Learn to forgive. Holding a grudge is a cancer that will eat away your happiness. One of my favorite quotes is “Forgiveness is the fragrance shed by the daffodil, upon the heel that has crushed it.”
Love others. One of my favorite words is Agape, which is an ancient Greek word for Unconditional Love.
And last, but not least, Stop your Fretting. Studies have shown that the vast majority of things we worry about will statistically never happen to us, (dying from a Nuclear blast), others have a small chance of happening, but instead of worrying about it, be pro-active (worried about a heart attack? Then stop smoking, exercise, and get annual physicals,) So when it comes down to it, there’s only about 4% of the things we should worry about. So remember, “Don’t worry. Be Happy!” I invite you to go back and watch my previous blog http://bringinghopeandhappiness.com/dont-worry-be-happy/
Remember, Happiness is a Choice!
I hope you will reply to this blog by posting one or two words that describes what makes you happy. Think outside the box, write something other than God, Country, family, or friends. For example, mine is Barnes and Noble.