So how then can you be happy? The keys to happiness are a lot more obvious than you might expect. The things you believe, and do, and the mindsets you have, have an incredible impact on how happy you will be. And you have a say in those things. You can change them.
While it seems that your genes might also play a role in your happiness, there is also evidence to suggest that you can alter your happiness “set point”. That is, the “normal” cheer level you operate in. Just like people have weight “set points” so we also have happiness “set points.”
So here are some things that have been proven to affect your happiness. The short version is, you are happiest when you are who you were created to be.
Happy people spend more time with friends and family. We were made for relationships. God designed us to love Him and to love each other. Considering that, it is hardly surprising that spending more time with friends and family results in happiness. It’s not like God intended for us to be grumpy. So find a friend, and do coffee. (Do coffee? Eh! I am so Canadian!) What is more, the happier you are the more friends you’ll have to spend time with. And that starts a happiness funnel. Spend time with friends, happier you are, happier you are, more friends to spend time with… get that?
They think about others. Something as simple as buying Christmas gifts for needy children in their community instead of spending it all on themselves has proven to make families happier in studies that have been performed. More others, and less stuff is a key to happiness. Helping your kid develop a charitable attitude will pay off in huge dividends. It will make for one happy kid. We were created to love.
They keep busy. Studies prove that teenagers with flowing schedules are happier. We were designed to keep busy. Busy but not too busy. We need to be challenged and productive. However, you can also overdo it. Again, didn’t God say that 6 days of the week we should work, and on the seventh day we should rest? Maybe God really does know how He created us to operate.
They know their Strengths. And they operate in them. It is not just about keeping busy. It’s about keeping busy with things you do well. That is, we need to be productive, not just busy. When we do what we do well, we have an affect on the world around us, and we take pride in the difference we are making. That is a basic principle of work that blesses others. For work that satisfies, we need to know that we are making a difference in someone’s life, and we also need to know we are part of something bigger than us.
They find rest. Rest and recreation is important. Supposedly one of the happiest men in the world is a welder in Chicago with a 4’th grade education. He turned down a promotion because that would take him away from what he does best. But part of his secret is that he also enjoys his backyard where he has created a personal sanctuary where he will sit and enjoy it. As much as we need to work and also be with friends and family, we also need moments of quiet rest.
They are not materialist. Less stuff. Even amongst the rich, the person with less stuff tends to be happier than their counterpart that has lots of stuff. What? Do you mean that if I get a new 60” TV and another car it won’t make me happy? Studies suggest it won’t. Less of a focus on things seems to be a factor in happiness. Think God would say “told you so” to that?
They are thankful. But I would be more thankful if I had more stuff. Not so according to studies. It doesn’t matter how much you have, you need to be grateful if you want to be happy. Whether or not you are healthy or have a job, affects our happiness a lot less than you might think it would. It matters far more whether you write and speak of how thankful you are for what you do have. And the Apostle Paul agrees. Read Philippians 4.
And they are quick to forgive. Man, seriously, we needed to study happiness? Maybe we can just start calling bible study the happiness class. But then, I know a ton of unhappy Christians. I also know a lot of Christians that hang on to all kinds of grudges, often in the guise of holding someone accountable to righteousness. But forgiveness means you let go and you don’t hold it over them anymore. If you want to know what forgiveness is, just look at what it means when God forgives us. He no longer holds our sins against us. He desires our relationship with Him to be reconnected. He wants us to join Him in heaven so we can finally hang out for real.
Studies suggest we don’t have a clue! We are horrible at predicting what will make us happy. We think if only I will get my dream job, then I will be happy. Only to realize once we have that job, that its the most miserable job we have ever had. So maybe it’s time to trust God a bit more, and believe that if we do what he asks us to do, then we will be as happy as we could possibly be.
Jesus says that if we try to preserve our life we will lose it. But if we give up our life for His sake we will find it. It seems that holds true for happiness. If you want to hang on to happiness, you’ll end up grumpy, but if you’ll focus on others and on God, you’ll gain true happiness.