The Pursuit of Happiness
We are told we have the right to “the pursuit of happiness,” yet we are watching anxiety and depression skyrocket. We only have to pay attention to the headlines right here in Greater Houston to see an incredibly disturbing rise in deaths by suicide, drug overdoses, substance abuse, domestic violence and neglect, and behaviors and conditions caused by despair. Is this the result of political or economic conditions, or is something else at work?
The feeling of isolation in our society is increasing. Why is this? We live in a time when ‘connecting’ seems more available than ever. Yet so many individuals in our communities feel alone and cut off. The breakdown of marriage and weakening of family ties have disproportionately affected those with lower socioeconomic status and who are already more vulnerable. Self-reported loneliness statistics have more than doubled. These are individuals who say they don’t have a person in their life who can help support them during a difficult time or that they can’t have a meaningful conversation. This is heartbreaking.
To pursue happiness we need solidarity and we need social connections that contribute to human growth & flourishing.
There are some biological factors that contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Some of us are born with certain vulnerabilities or early developmental factors that make us more susceptible to experiencing some mental health issues. But genes do not entirely explain many conditions or fully explain the rising rates.
So beyond biology and brain chemistry, what social and cultural factors are causing more and more people to withdraw into isolation or even decide life is no longer worth living?
Certainly, “the pursuit of happiness” can mean different things to different people. Some think happiness is all about achieving as much pleasure, fulfillment of their desires, and increasing our euphoric feeling as much as possible. In other words: hedonism. This view might be expressed, “I want ___” fill in the blank: money, a bigger house, more intimacy, more fun and adventure, more respect from others, a more notable position at work, etc. “If I get what I want, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with hedonic happiness is that it is based upon momentary contentment. As soon as the individual acquires their specific desire the only way to continue pursuing happiness is to want more.
A more complete and fulfilling pursuit of happiness includes developing our talents, cultivating relationships, and strengthening our contributions within our family, work, and community life. Notice the significance of the two views on happiness. The first concentrates on acquisition and the second focuses on the development of one’s own character strengths and personal virtues. The first is focused on the external we have little to no control over and the second focuses on our internal being. The “wants” I list in the first view of happiness may change year to year as I change as a person, yet the desires I pursue in the second view of happiness are pursuits of humanity and those desires remain with me throughout life.
The idea that our character affects our ability to be happy is key to finding success in our pursuit of happiness. Shield-Bearer is dedicated to helping individuals heal their hearts, improve their relationships, strengthen their character, and clear the path to pursue happiness in their life. Your financial and prayer support helps our army of compassionate therapists accomplish this incredibly impactful mission and transform Greater Houston one life at a time. We are grateful for your support.