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The Path to Genuine Joy: Unveiling the Road to Happiness

January 21st marks the beginning of "Hunt for Happiness Week". But what does happiness truly mean, and how do we go about finding it? When was the last time you experienced genuine joy? These questions...

January 21st marks the beginning of "Hunt for Happiness Week". But what does happiness truly mean, and how do we go about finding it? When was the last time you experienced genuine joy? These questions echoed through my mind as I glanced down at the top of my journal page.

Happiness is deeply ingrained in our cultural identity. It was famously included in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 as one of the unalienable rights granted to all humans by their creator, a right protected by the government. However, while we all acknowledge our right to pursue happiness, the practicality of achieving it remains a mystery.

To me, happiness is an internal state. It is a sense of balance, purpose, and meaning in life. It is the feeling of being engaged, safe, and peaceful. In an effort to understand what truly brings me happiness and how I can invite more of it into my life, I took pen to paper. I drew a line down the page, creating two concise lists. The left side documented what my life looked like during moments of pure happiness - the activities I engaged in and the rhythm of my daily routine. On the right side were the actions or lack thereof that characterized my lowest points, where happiness seemed out of reach.

As I filled the page, happy memories resurfaced and the mere act of recalling these moments brought back those warm feelings. I found myself transported back to my early twenties when I lived on the North Shore of Boston as a newlywed. Life seemed simpler then, and spontaneity was abundant. We had an active circle of friends, spent weekends playing strategy games and watching movies, and embarked on hiking trips and beach outings. An image of my husband and I enjoying a midnight swim in the outdoor pool of our apartment complex flashed before my eyes. "Wow, I really miss swimming," I thought, pondering why I had ever stopped. Another memory emerged of baking cupcakes with my daughter. I remembered the sheer delight on her cherubic face as she attempted to create edible cupcake toppers from colored fondant. "First you whip it, then you splat it, then... look, a volcano," she squeaked, triumphantly presenting me with a glob of red and black sugar paste.

What became clear from this exercise is that it is the little things that make all the difference in leading a happy life versus an unhappy one. On the right side were oversleeping, neglecting workouts, isolating myself from friends, not dedicating enough time to hobbies, work stress, and financial strain. Conversely, on the left side were setting alarms and waking up early, morning workouts, nourishing breakfasts, home-cooked meals, and quality time spent with friends. It's evident that engaging in these actions would make my life happier, so why did I let them slip away?

The second part of the exercise involved identifying the reasons, obstacles, and challenges that hindered me from pursuing activities that brought me joy. Moving away from friends, career changes, economic struggles, health issues, and marital stress gradually chipped away at my happiness. However, it was my diminishing hope that further contributed to my reluctance to engage in the activities that I knew could bring back that sense of bliss. Slowly but surely, I descended from a life filled with empowerment, hope, and happiness into a darker, more fearful existence. These changes occurred so subtly over time that I hardly noticed them until I found myself in a precarious situation.

My current life is not unhappy per se, but there are numerous items on my happiness list that I no longer prioritize. Now that I am aware of this, I plan to make a change. This simple exercise in the pursuit of happiness has proven to be more profound than I ever anticipated. I have discovered my roadmap to happiness; now I simply need to follow it.

Rebekah Wilbur Content & Design Manager

The Road to Happiness Image: The Road to Happiness - The journey toward genuine joy starts with understanding what truly brings us happiness.