It seems we’re always searching for happiness. The question of what happiness is and how to get it has been around for a long time. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle saw happiness as being the end to which the human person is ordered. He claimed:
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Positive psychology has moved the pursuit of happiness away from just being a good philosophical idea to one supported by scientific inquiry. If we want to be flourishing well adjusted human beings we might want to look over these ten practices positive psychology proposes lead to a happy life:
- First and foremost, happy people are very service oriented and “other focused.” They find reasons to invest themselves in others through community service, working in charities, and participating in other works of good will toward their fellow human beings. If you want to be happier than you are now stop thinking about yourself and try investing yourself in others.
- Another element contributing to happiness is getting married. 40 percent of married adults indicated they were very happy which is almost two times the 24 percent of never married adults who said the exact same thing. So if you think being single, living life simply for yourself, and being a bachelor or bachelorette is going to bring you more happiness, think again!
- Not so sure you like organized religion? Well….. studies show individuals actively involved in practicing religion have happier and healthier lives than those who don’t. If it’s been a long time since you went to church and got involved, it’s time to rethink your spiritual practices.
- While having an abundance of money won’t make you happy, being able to pay for your basic needs does. Discipline yourself financially so you’re able to pay your basic bills and keep from getting into debt, particularly for frivolous things. If we have control over our finances we have control over an important aspect of our lives. This idea of control leads to the next key idea for being happy, control over your life and environment.
- Happy people set goals and work toward those goals consistently every day of their life. Goal setting, and achieving goals provides the sense of control mentioned above. When we have a sense of control we have a greater sense of happiness.
- Practice being an extrovert. Even if you’re introverted, the truth is those engaging in more social activities tend to be happier than those who isolate themselves. If you’re not an extrovert by nature you need to force yourself to be more like one because we tend to be happier when we’re socially engaged. Develop good friendships and spend time with them because friendship, when healthy, leads to a more fulfilling life.
- Be more optimistic about people; trust them and get that skeptical negative attitude out of your mind. Happy people tend to take a more positive view of others and avoid filling their minds with negative thoughts and emotions. I know people can disappoint you, but if that’s all you think about you forget how often they’ve been there for you as well. Try and think optimistically about people, happiness depends on it.
- Like yourself. I know those of us practicing Christian spirituality recognize we’re sinners needing the healing love of Christ but remember, God loves us so there must be something redeeming about human beings. If we’re loved by a great and gracious God, there must be qualities about human beings deserving to be loved. Find them in yourself and learn to appreciate them.
- Don’t worry too much about making the perfect decision, make decisions “good enough” to get the job done! When we become “maximizers” always worried we haven’t understood all our options and grow anxious the decision we made isn’t the best, we have trouble being happy. If you surf through all the cable channels looking for the perfect show, when you find it you already missed most of it. Maximizers usually make the best decision but it comes at a cost. Maximizers always have the looming sense the choice they made is not “really” the best choice. Be a “satisficer”, someone who looks at their options, makes the best choice given the conditions surrounding them and moves on. As a satisficer you “could” choose the least optimal option but most of the time it gets the job done and you’re no longer worrying about the decision.
- Finally, become a person of gratitude. Savor the good in your life, be intentional about expressing it, and make time to reflect on the positive experiences you’ve had. Then, don’t just be thankful in your mind, find ways to express that gratitude to God and other people. Letters, prayers, a journal, or an intentional visit to someone to say thanks makes life a little sweeter.
Happiness has been positively correlated with a number of benefits. Longer healthier life, better productivity, higher levels of creativity, tolerance, improved decision making, as well as a greater sense of empathy are just some of the benefits people experience as they grow in happiness. Ultimately though, joy is an expression of a Spirit filled life. I encourage all of you to make these ten elements of happiness a part of your life. Certainly, we can all use a little more happiness in our day!