Although I’ve hammered the topic of happiness enough on this blog, any discussion of happiness isn’t complete without a sharp focus on it’s inherent spiritual nature. I thought the best way to do that would be to share 13 distinct practices advocated in the best-selling book of all time and one that has stood the test of time: the Bible.
Being an avid Bible reader all my adult life, the 13 “Laws” or practices of Happiness that Dr. Henry Cloud lists and expounds upon in his book The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and Modern Science Can Change Your Life weren’t news or surprising to me. However, what’s been intriguing for me is how research in the field of positive psychology and Marti Seligman’s work in particular have confirmed and provided rich detail and insight to much of what has been revealed to us for a for a long time.
I think Victor Frankl’s preface to the 1992 edition of Man’s Search for Meaning is a great summary of the key perspective related to happiness (and success for that matter): “Again and again I therefore admonish my students both in Europe and in America: “Don’t aim at success— the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” He goes on to emphasize that “in the long-run, happiness and success follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about them.” So true.
The following 13 practices, know to us for thousands of years now, put “legs” on the perspective
articulated so clearly by Dr. Frankl. After all, happiness isn’t a destination location, it’s something that we experience in the journey. It’s a by-product of what you do and who you become in the process. And the good news is that we’ve been created in a way that has wired us for happiness!
Here are 13 Biblical Practices of Happiness Confirmed by Science:
- Give- give in a way that stretches you but doesn’t break you; you always get more back, and often different and better.
- Pursue that which has meaning- intentionally pursue and contribute to something larger than yourself; focusing only on you assures you’ll be unhappy.
- Be in the moment- all you really have is this moment, so live in it intentionally; taking a “I’ll be happy when……” assures you’ll never arrive.
- Pursue goals- pursue meaningful, intrinsically motivating goals you are committed to, follow through on and give you major momentum; otherwise you’ll just drift.
- Fully engage- find your passion, what gives you “flow” and then pursue it as hard and as often as you can; do what matters and do it with a whole heart.
- Connect Relationally- we were created for relationship and it fuels us. Simply driving toward accomplishment leads to misery of the worst kind…success without fulfillment.
- Don’t compare- you’re unique and any standard other than your own potential is like comparing apples and oranges and ultimately will always disappoint.
- Guard your thinking- our decisions and ultimately our destiny is the direct expression of your thoughts and decisions; make them good ones.
- Be grateful- it’s hard for negative emotions to set up camp when you intentionally express gratitude.
- Establish Boundaries– set limits on what…and who…you will and won’t allow in your life.
- Forgive- the evidence is overwhelming: when you forgive others you’re the biggest beneficiary. Unforgiveness will keep you locked in a prison.
- Find your Calling- take the time, explore and experiment until you find your powerful “Why”; it makes every reason listed here that much easier to do.
- Have faith- both our experience, evidence and the wisest among us know how important this is. Challenge your faith to answer the essential questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny so it can stand strong when the winds of adversity blow….and blow they most assuredly will.
We have all the information we need to know to be happy and we’ve had it for a long time. In addition, we live in a time when current research in this area has provided us with more granularity on specific exercises and tools we can can leverage to increase the happiness of others as well as our own. It’s all there- the perspective, the practices, and the knowledge that people need to be happy.
Why then do so many today seem to be unhappy? Because to know and not do, is to not know.
What do you need to start, stop or change in order to experience the happiness you want? Please leave a comment and share what’s been working (or not) for you.