The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is fleeting.

Happiness is something for tomorrow.

Happiness is something I don’t deserve.

Happiness is something children experience more easily than adults do.

I recently did a workshop on recognizing and removing barriers to our joy. These were answers given when I asked mothers “What does happiness mean to you?”

Lately, happiness books have been crowding bookstore shelves explaining and exploring the power, necessity, and elusiveness of happiness. Author Barry Neil Kaufman says happiness is a choice-and our birthright.

Scientists, like Dr. Robert Emmons, have reported that happy people live longer, recover more quickly from illness, have stronger immune systems, and enjoy great satisfaction in their families and lives- regardless of circumstances. Why? They are more grateful, for starters.

So where does gratitude come into the mix? Let’s take the pursuit of happiness to the parenting lab where we brew fine whine and reactions that can overflow, and sometimes explode, in our face.

Research shows tantrums, power struggles, critical mother-in-laws, and spouses that don’t throw out the trash do not derail happy parents. Their joy is not dependent on externals. They are internally driven people, not reliant on positive circumstances, other people’s approval, or their children’s good behavior to measure their joy.

You say “Oh, that’s not me!” It could be.

According to researchers, like molecular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, in spite of the fact our DNA determines 50% of who we are, with some effort and attention our internal capacity for happiness is something we can develop and expand. Our first step is to know how we think and identify our own beliefs. Beliefs are what create our neural circuitry.

Most parents want their children to grow up and “be happy”. Are we planting the seeds of that happiness now? University of Pennsylvania psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman found that happy people have the following habits in common:

They pursue personal growth and intimacy.

They surround themselves with family and friends.

They don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses next door.

They judge themselves by their own yardstick, and not by what others have.

They engage in daily activities they truly enjoy.

They don’t worry.

They forgive easily.

So, imagine each of these habits cultivated in our children. Instead of focusing exclusively on obedience and compliance, we could shift our goals to enjoyment, forgiveness, self-validation, and connection. If we modeled just half of these, our children’s habits would begin to reflect ours. If we adopted all of them in our approach to living and parenting, moods and modes of interacting would shift. Our children would feel less need to withdraw, pull away, protest our requests, or see us as the enemy. Why? We would experience less negative anticipation and expectation, and they would react differently to us!

If we raised a generation on these seven habits alone, just imagine the world they would inherit…

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