In the manual "Finding Happiness in America", I describe the research that shows happiness levels in America have remained stagnant over the past 50 years while our living standards have risen. Are we forgetting that we all possess the ingredients for happiness? Even though scientists continually search for a genetic link to suggest some may embody a greater propensity for happiness than others, the fact remains that joyfulness resides in each of us. If your DNA threads lead to a propensity for downheartedness, than you will simply have to burrow deeper to unearth the happiness within. It's there, waiting for you to unearth it!
In 36 years of counseling youth and adults, I’ve witnessed happiness or glumness dwelling within both the healthy and ailing, rich and penniless, smart and dull, and handsome and ugly. The happier clients discovered that happiness must be learned and practiced daily or it will wither away. They took responsibility for their own contentment and didn't allow politics, the government, their boss, social attackers and gossip, or a myriad of other external events to upset them for very long.
People who remain in high spirits perform to the best of their abilities on the home front, in the community, and at the office or shop. They deliver more than what life pays them to do and often reach beyond their own selfish needs to extend small courtesies that inspirit the lives of others. They dream dreams, set worthy goals, remain committed to paying the price to achieve them, and enjoy the gallant journey toward reaching them.
Regardless of your genetic weavings, past experiences or current situation, you possess the ingredients for happiness. Your road to happiness must be an active process that's practiced each day. Life doesn’t devote itself to making you happy, so by design it is the manner in which you travel through life that makes you so. If you passively sit back and wait for happiness to arrive, you will never encounter it…even if it knocks on your door, which it rarely does.
The happiest people I've met laugh through life’s little irritations, regardless of their circumstances or genetic make-up. Zig Ziglar wrote about a man who bought a lemon of a used car and drove it back onto the used car lot a week later and said to the upbeat and persuasive salesman, “Could you please tell me about this car again? Sometimes I get so discouraged with it!”
Yes, disappointing things will happen to you and fairness, peace and justice will not always go your way, so you need to be encouraged... like Zig Ziglar. Happiness is not the absence of problems- it's how you deal with them. You will only be as happy as you make up your mind to be, so don't allow traumatic life events or ill-humored DNA strands inherited from your ancestors to rob you of the power to discover your good side. Don't travel through life with the gusto of the cruise director on the Titanic...you can choose not to.
I know you can, because I've counseled many people who have found happiness despite past upsets and current injustices. Traumatic events licked the red off their candy canes, but they discovered the free, miracle drug which has no bad side effects…laughter! They didn’t purchase it at the local pharmacy, but unearthed it from deep inside themselves.
It's a researched fact. Laughter can ease pain, banish tension and worry, and liberate cloudy minds to think more clearly. You can “condition” yourself to laugh at life...and to be happy. Begin the journey now!
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. He is author of the book "Finding Happiness in America."