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Fixin' Healthcare

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - The Pursuit Of Happiness

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson wrote these words at the beginning of America as a nation and they stuck. But, one has to wonder from where he drew the phrase "pursuit of happiness". Could he have known how prophetic he would be in labeling a major aspect of the American psyche?

Jefferson was a member of the privledged class who were the leaders of the American colonies. He and the other founding fathers had a stake in the future and they felt the heavy weight of responsibility for assuring that future. By the standards of history for measuring oppression this was hardly an oppressed group. However, the privledged class are known for the pursuit of happiness and leaders are known to feel the need to relieve the burden of responsibility by pursuing happiness.

For the most part, happiness and pleasure are passive emotions that come from things that happen to someone. They are fleeting emotions that have to be constantly pursued to maintain them. The achievement of happiness is often perceived to be a matter of luck.

Happiness and the pursuit of happiness have come to mean many things and all of them are highly valued. The pursuit of happiness is associated with individual freedom and Americans have elevated this combination to the level of an art form.

It is generally believed that good health is linked to happiness. However, the frenzy, stress and lifestyles that result from the pursuit of happiness have a negative impact upon health. Health care in America has morphed into medical care and it, too, has become ensnared in the process and fall-out of the pursuit of happiness. For example, consider the patterns and extent of both prescribed and illegal drug utilization.

Gregory Berns is a young faculty member at Emory University who has written a book entitled "Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment". He advocates satisfaction as a positive emotion experienced because of making things happen. The two main ingredients of a satisfying experience are novelty and challenge. A sense of accomplishment taps into the reward system of the brain that is different from the pleasure system. Motivation and commitment are related factors of the process that are mediated by dopamine and cortisol. A philosophy based upon biology is to stop pursuing happiness and pursue satisfaction in terms of trying, learning and doing new things.

Do I exaggerate? Think about it. Life, liberty and the pursuit of satisfaction. Now, there is a thought that might capture the imagination.

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