It’s all in your mind

Published 6:51 pm Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happiness. It’s such an integral part of ideal human experience that its pursuit — in contrast to its actual attainment — was immortalized as one of the three basic rights of mankind in America’s Declaration of Independence.

To be sure, even Americans have found that the actual attainment of happiness is often a hit-or-miss proposition. As the years have progressed since Thomas Jefferson penned the words that set the course of a new republic, Americans have embraced everything from religion to technology as a means to achieve the goal.

The results often can seem spotty, at best.

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Religion has spurred wars and oppression throughout history, though true belief often brings joy. Technology has eased human existence — freeing up more time for leisure, for time with family and for the things that many of us consider integral to experiencing happiness. But as we fill our lives with more things, more pleasurable experiences and more sensuality, we often find that true happiness continues to be elusive. The evidence is clear in everything from divorce rates to rising foreclosures.

Every once in a while, though, someone comes along who epitomizes the ideal of happiness, even in the darkest of times. In Hampton Roads, that person is J.P. “Gus” Godsey, whom USA Weekend magazine named the “Happiest Man in America” in 2003.

Godsey is the kind of person who lifts the spirits of all those who come in contact with him. Whether on the phone or in person, his smile is contagious. And with him, it’s clear that it’s not just about his life situation. Heading into a Hampton Roads summer with a truck that has a broken air conditioner and the possibility of his home being foreclosed on, Godsey maintains his positive demeanor and bright outlook.

It comes down to making a choice to be happy, he says, and that turns out to be sage advice. Happiness is, after all, a state of mind, and each of us has the power to decide for ourselves what that state will be.

So today, don’t just pursue happiness. Choose it. You might be surprised at the results.