The Declaration of Independence
The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, along with Life and Liberty, as the foundational rights we should have as Americans--and a good reason to rebel against the English King.
Pursuit of happiness, like pursuit of wealth, is not the same a having it. Annie Grace, author ofThis Naked Mind helps people get alcohol out of their lives and live happier lives as a result. She is brilliant and very much data oriented. When I heard about her, I was impressed. So who has a happy life?
It turns out that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence were doing many of the things that lead to real happiness. They were committed to a cause bigger than themselves; they had strong relationships (a real possibility of "hanging together" as Benjamin Franklin famously said); each one had a goal in life; and they were helping others. In their pursuit of happiness, they were doing the things that actually make people happy.
Annie Grace puts exercise and meditation at the top of her list of things that lead to true happiness and she uses a lot of data and brain science to show why this is true. Since I did not hear about Annie Grace until this week, I had not plan to follow her advice, but it turned I am doing most of the things she says lead to a happy life.
According to Grace people who have a happy life:
1. Exercise, not just exercise but exercise with others toward a personal goal. Most of my rides are training rides with other racers. When I was in the Army, I went to crowded gyms and trained to score high on the fitness test.
2. Meditation. I started meditating this year. The program I use calls meditation, “a vacation for your mind.” They are right.
3. Strong relationships. It has been my immense good fortune to have a variety of strong relationships. I have Army buddies I am still in touch with from both the 70s and recent years. I have a wonderful family. I have friends from racing and friends who are as intensely into books as I am. Recently I have added friends who share an intense interest in politics. I hang out with some of my former co-workers more than three years after I retired. Social media keeps me in touch with people I only rarely see in person.
4. Having a goal in life. From the time I left home at 18, I have joined groups with shared goals and had goals of my own. In each of the four military organizations in which I enlisted, I was part of the mission. My professional jobs were in communications—my mission was to tell customers and other influential people that the place I worked is wonderful. I did far and away my best work when the communication goal was clear.
5. Gratitude. Annie Grace recommends a gratitude journal, writing down five things I am thankful for each day. I am going to start.
6. Helping others. I don’t do enough of this.
7. Active leisure: Do sports, don't watch sports, at least while the sun is up. I am a member of book discussion groups and even had a couple of book groups in Iraq. My current college course is learning Modern Hebrew.
8. Belonging to something bigger than us. In real life, the Lone Ranger was miserable.
I really do have a happy life, but it’s nice to have data that confirms why I am happy.
I didn't start meditating or Yoga until this year. It's never too late to make changes.