Generally, most people wish for happiness for themselves and for the ones they care about. Dr. David Myers, author of Pursuit of Happiness, identified a number of qualities shared by many people who tend to be happy. Among them, happy people see themselves as emotionally and physically healthy; they feel empowered; they possess close, trusting relationships and a belief system that focuses on intangible elements that add meaning and vitality to life’s experiences; they have balanced lives and make time for reflection and relaxation. Happy people also don’t let life become sedentary; they creatively keep producing new ideas and learning new things.
We become acutely aware when all the talk about happiness pops open like a jack-in-the-box during the holiday season. We like to say that it is a time to be happy and thankful for what we have – and it is! – but sometimes that is easier said than done. In the quick pace of the shopping season and the hectic holiday parties, where is the time to slow down or “make time for yourself?” Happiness, like anything in life, is something that needs to be worked at, mindfully practiced and acknowledged on a regular basis.
One path to happiness can be pursued by allowing yourself to be an active participant of your community. One of the reasons why we set up a martial arts school in the heart of West Chester is because of just that – to be in the heart of a community. Community supports camaraderie and closeness of ideals, a means to better our surroundings, our future and ultimately ourselves. And with a new year around the corner, the list of New Year’s Resolutions is not far off from our societal thinking either. While research shows that most New Year’s Resolutions don’t last very long beyond the first month, people who set goals for themselves are 10 times more likely achieve them than those who do not draft any specific set of resolutions.
Martial arts training, like other activities, allows us to set goals for ourselves (or for parents to set goals for their children). A newcomer to the arts will sometimes ask how long it takes to earn a black belt. There is no correct answer. Individuals behave and train at their own pace and face obstacles along the way that will challenge them in achieving their goals, whatever they may be. A more relevant question is: What benefits will I receive as a result of training towards the black belt? Or better yet, what is the community like that I will be surrounding myself by as I build new behaviors and lifestyle for myself? Some parents set a simple goal of providing their children with a learning process in which they can find happiness and transfer skills to aspects of their daily lives (relating to kids at school, balancing learning with fun, developing patience and respect for others). Trying something new or making a commitment to build a new set of actions is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Yet, if it means that we can live a more fulfilling life with greater happiness, isn’t it worth taking the chance to try something new?
Martial arts training is not all about the kicking and the punching. People are attracted to it due to some personal situation they are going through or because the arts are portrayed in a movie box office hit. Some want to “get in shape,” and that will occur, but something else happens in the process of stepping onto the floor in bare feet. A learning process ensues beyond physical measures. In other words, David Myers’ characteristics of happy people begin to take shape. I love his description of the pursuit of happiness because this is what we foster and experience in our “dojang,” our martial arts school. The students open themselves up to learning something that challenges their way of being and thinking, and taking chances that they can live happier and healthier lives. The best experience of instant gratification happiness that I regularly experience is when having a really crappy day that is emotionally taxing and exhausting, I move on auto-pilot to the dojang. I don’t even give myself the opportunity to question to go or not; it’s not a choice, it’s an obligation to myself. After class, I walk out into the fresh evening air, taking it all in through a deep breath, and think, “Ok, now where was I before I came here?” I almost forget, and would have it I hadn’t forced myself to recall my state of mind upon entering class. Really, what was it that had me feeling that way? And how amazing is it that I feel 100% better? Training normally provides a quick 180-degree turn in how I am feeling for the better, and add that up over the course of weeks and months, and the year turns out to be pretty rewarding on the happiness scale.
West Chester offers so much for whatever motivates you to get out in order to get involved. Meet your match, try it out, and give yourself a fighting shot at being happy(ier) and building a better community at the same time.
Visit Brantlee at her studio in West Chester and start your pursuit of happiness. Click the banner below for more info.