Happy Independence Day

Written by Julie Schillings | Photography by Tobie Andrews Photography Puppies provided by Petland

Celebrating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

On America’s most patriotic holiday, we celebrate with fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues. Beyond the sparklers and revelry, the Fourth of July is an opportunity to reflect on the vision our nation’s founders established for our great country.

Approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence announced to the world that the United States of America was a sovereign nation — a new country — the land of the free. A profound declaration regarding individual freedom is penned in the document, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Historians credit this iconic sentence as one of the most powerful statements in American history regarding equality and human rights. It was a bold and revolutionary concept at a time of slavery and monarch rule — every human being has God-given rights to live, and to be free as they pursue happiness.

What did the Declaration’s authors intend by their words “pursuit of happiness”? Note that it is the “pursuit” of happiness that is granted along with life and liberty — not simply “happiness.” Pursuit requires effort to achieve a goal. As Americans, we have been given the fundamental right to work toward a goal that produces satisfaction and ultimately happiness.

There is not a prescribed set of actions that guarantee happiness — is a very personal journey. Not everyone’s happiness looks the same. Happiness is not the type of goal that once achieved will remain static. Think of happiness like hunger — keep feeding yourself with experiences that create satisfaction to maintain a happy outlook.

Happiness will not be delivered to you; however, living the “American Dream” means having the freedom to earn happiness by accomplishing goals. In honor of the men and women who serve our country to protect the freedoms declared by our founding fathers, take some time this Independence Day weekend to pursue your happiness.

Pursuing happy habits

Experience gratitude James A. Roberts of Baylor University led a team of researchers as they examined the relationship between materialism and life’s satisfaction. Published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, the study confirmed what previous research summarized, “People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life.” The study found that people who feel thankful and grateful tend to experience greater happiness in life than those who are primarily focused on acquiring wealth and possessions. In fact, when the more materialistic people experienced gratitude in some form, their level of happiness rose.

Get enough shut-eye Medical guidelines recommend that adults get eight hours of sleep per night. Many researchers agree that not getting enough sleep has profound health consequences, such as heart disease, diabetes and even obesity. In addition to those, not getting adequate sleep has a significant impact on your happiness. Get enough zzzz’s, and don’t be cranky.

Stay hydrated The U.S. Army participated in a 2012 study that concluded that even mild dehydration made healthy, young people gloomy and pessimistic. When subjects fully hydrated, then exercised or took diuretics to lose, on average, 1.4 percent of their body weight, their moods slid. It is theorized that certain neurons can detect dehydration and they alert parts of the brain that manage mood. How much water do you need to drink to stay happy? A good way to measure your recommended daily intake of water is to halve your weight and drink that many fluid ounces. For example, a 200-pound man should drink 100 ounces of water, or about 12.5 glasses each day.

Turn it upIt is a chemical reac- tion - that emotional rush you feel when your favorite song comes on. Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion (i.e. happiness) through the reward centers in the brain. Research conducted by McGill University scientists concluded that hearing music causes the brain to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and anticipated reward.

Work it out The terms “endorphin rush” and “runner’s high” are commonly used to explain the mood boost that can occur during or after a workout. Research has found that even as little as 20-minutes of exercise can produce mood enhancing benefits that last as long as 12 hours. Studies conducted on rats indicate that exercise mimics the effects of antidepressants on the brain. Exercise is also responsible for replenishing brain cells in the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Nurture your friendships Hectic schedule, the kids need me, my house is filthy — these are just a few of the many excuses that prevent us from getting together with friends. Since the beginning of mankind, experts have recognized that strong social ties are important to an individual’s happiness. Friendships promote the feeling of belonging. Relationships provide an opportunity to give and receive support. Studies show that people who have five or more friends with whom to discuss an important matters are far more likely to describe themselves as “very happy.” This happy habit is easy to pursue — go text your closest pal to schedule a lunch date (as soon as you finish reading SPLURGE! of course).

Be a giver Helping others goes a long way towards helping yourself. A 2013 study conducted at the University of Exeter Medical School found that volunteering can boost happiness, ease depression and even help you live longer. Volunteers involved in the study reported increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being. Dr. Suzanne Richards, author of the research says the best volunteer experiences are those that connect people with their passions.

Find a furry friend Cat or Dog. Reptile or Rodent. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners are healthier and happier than people who do not have a pet in the household. In addition, the study found no distinct variations between owners of different types of pets, only the common benefits of owning one.

Fascinating Fourth of July facts

It is estimated that Americans consume 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day alone.

Three of our nation’s first five presidents died on the Fourth of July. John Adams, the second president, and Thomas Jefferson, the third, died on the same day in 1826. James Monroe died five years later in 1831.

Malia Obama will celebrate her 17th birthday on July 4, 2015.

$675 million is the expected total for consumer sales of fireworks in the United States in celebration of July 4 this year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

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