Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happiness Roadblocks

I read an article yesterday on AOL titled “Happiness Roadblocks” (You can read the article here), which stated that happiness is largely up to us. The article claims that “…50% of our happiness is cultivated in ourselves, and 50% is innate,” and that we can learn ways to be happier.

Learn to be happier? I’m all for this! Tell me more!

The article went on to describe “common roadblocks to happiness and a guide for getting around them.” What resonated with me when I read these was the fact that I have heard all of these guidelines before. In scripture. It reminded me that the Bible truly does tell us how to live.

Here’s the recap, of the happiness roadblocks as listed in this article, to which I’ve added corresponding scripture references.

1) Expecting the worst: According to this article, pessimism and expecting the worst elicits a stress response, that wears us down, prevents us from enjoying the moment, and robs us of our happiness. Perhaps this is why In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus teaches us not to worry, saying “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” and in Matthew 6:34, he says again, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

2) Passing the buck: I struggled to understand this one the first time I read it in the article, but what it boils down to is this: we cannot expect someone or something to be responsible for making us happy. And if someone or something does make us happy, it simply won’t last. Lasting happiness does not come from our circumstances. It simply cannot. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew this all too well. In Ecclesiastes Chapter 2, he declares pleasure, wisdom, folly, and toil meaningless. Happiness, he said, comes from God. Ecc 2:24-26 says “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.”

3) Thinking life should be perfect – and yours is not. Oh boy. This is a huge stumbling block for me. I would so love for my life to be perfect, and believe me, it is a long way from perfect. But rather than focusing on what’s wrong or missing from our lives, the article suggests that we focus deliberately on what is good and right in our lives. Gratitude, the article goes on to say, has been found to decrease depression. Scripture tells us this in so many places. Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should be “…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And scripture reminds us of the many things we have to be thankful for! First and foremost, for the indescribable gift of Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15), and Psalm 106:1 tells us to simply be thankful for God, that He is good and His love endures forever. Scripture also tells us to be thankful for the material things we do have. In John 6:11, Jesus gave us the example when he took the loaves, and gave thanks. I’m trying to be more deliberate in remembering and counting my blessings, and encouraging my children to do the same, as I know we have so much to be thankful for.

4) Not thinking of others. Ever. Acts of kindness, both big and small, make us happier. The article claims that “…in doing these things, we activate the part of our brains that give us a little endorphin boost so we feel better.” Jesus told us that next to loving God, the greatest commandment we are to follow is to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, which encompasses loving, caring, giving, and doing for others. Can we be truly happy, completely isolated from ever doing anything for anyone? I don’t think so….

5) Expecting life to be fair. News flash for anyone out there that is still expecting fairness out of life: LIFE IS NOT FAIR. It’s just not. Good people suffer. Good people hurt. But even thought we know better, don’t we still expect fairness? In many ways, I know I still do. Years ago I read somewhere that over 90% of fights between siblings could be boiled down to two things: a perceived unfairness, or a need to prove oneself to be right. I see this all the time in our two children. When they were younger, it was over little things, like, who got the bigger cookie, or whose turn it was to pick a TV program. But now, as they have grown older, they are still arguing over what they perceive to be unfair. In the book of Job, we see a dramatic illustration of how horribly “unfair” life can be. Despite the fact that Job was an upright and blameless man, terrible things happened to him. In Job’s case, the unfair calamities that beset him were orchestrated by Satan, but Job didn’t know that. From Job’s persepctive, I think it must have seemed that life was just one horrendous unfairness after another. Yet despite the unfairness he experienced and his subsequent temptation to blame and curse God, Job remained faithful. Aren’t we to do the same? To not look at the unfairness of life, but instead, to look at the goodness of our God? And along the way, to alleviate some of the unfairness and suffering of others that we see? And if life was fair, we would bear the burden of our sins and Jesus the sinless savior would never have died for us. So along with being grateful even though our life is not perfect, we need to bow in humility and not demand or expect that life treat us fairly.

Are you looking to bump up your happiness level? (Boy does that sound like an informercial!!!) Well, I think we would all like to be happier. And we can start with being positive, recognizing that people or things cannot be responsible for making us happy, getting rid of our expectation that life should be perfect or fair, and taking our focus off ourselves and instead, focusing on doing for others. I’m happier already.

Have a wonderful day...

1 comment:

Jeanette said...

I was browsing through Blogs tonight and happened upon yours. I am glad that I did, as I enjoyed reaing your post very much. Thanks for posting!!!