By Lana Turnbull
“The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
I have a small flipbook calendar of “folksy” and inspirational quotes. Even though I’ve had it for years, it always feels new when I flip to the next day’s message. Recently the daily quote was the one above from Ben Franklin. The more I thought about it, the more I liked what he had to say. And while the familiar statement is actually from the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, I get what Franklin meant.
When I think about the happiest people I know, they are not necessarily the people with the most money, or fame, power or influence, they are mostly people who have made it their business to be happy with their situation. They are “the glass is half full” kind of people who despite trouble and hardship, wake up with a sunny disposition and carry it with them all day.
Life is what we make of it. And I guess we do have to catch up to happiness and hang on tight if we are going to be able to keep it around through the hard times. It’s all a matter of perspective. We can choose to view life from a vantage point where we see only the stumbling blocks and barriers or we can switch positions and see it from a place where we find opportunity and hope.
So can having a positive attitude make us healthier? A recent study found that there is a link between positive thinking and the onset of frailty in older adults. People from the study who scored high on positive affect or positive thinking were significantly less likely to become frail. While researchers in the study couldn’t explain why positive thinking or positive emotions reduced the incidence of frailty, they speculated that “positive thinking may directly affect health via chemical and neural responses that help maintain an overall health balance.”
Given the choice of being happy and healthy vs. unhappy and potentially unhealthy, the obvious decision is to opt for approaching life with a positive attitude. It’s not always easy to do, especially if we are not fortunate enough to be genetically predisposed to cheerfulness, but taking the first step toward consciously monitoring the way we look at a situation is a good start. In addition to being endowed with the “unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we are also endowed with the free will to decide to target, chase and yes, even catch up with happiness if we put our minds to it. It’s our choice.
In dedication to my mom, Mary Kathryn Lawrence, who always finds happiness and hope in life no matter the circumstances.