Preoccupation or Prayer?

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Multitasking can lower productivity. A life of distraction hinders happiness. But meditation may actually impact the structure of the brain. Scientists don’t know why, but meditation can reduce anxiety, depression, and pain. Quiet time, prayer, Scripture memorization—these are all part and parcel of a meditative life and are certainly encouraged throughout the Bible. When the day takes on frantic undertones, or when we find it difficult to stay in the present time and place, there’s a good chance that refreshing our devotional habits will help.

Of course we’re called not only to prayer, but to praise, worship, and thanksgiving. Time[1] Magazine reported that people who are grateful tend to feel more content. Gratitude means noticing the good in our lives and being happy for what we have. If one of your “brain ruts” is that of constant comparison or disgruntlement, you’re dragging yourself down. Happy people are seldom bothered by the successes of others. They count their own blessings. They have a biblical perspective: all good things come from God, and he knows what is best for us. Remember, we can change those neural pathways with practice. We don’t need greater wealth or better circumstances to be happy. We need greater appreciation, mindfulness of our blessings, and a willingness to express our gratitude for them. Church helps. It’s an easy place to express our gratitude. Furthermore, when I of Sunday mornings, I think of

  • Music, a proven mood enhancer.
  • Fellowship, touted by many as essential to sustained happiness.
  • Friends. Time says stable, committed relationships matter.
  • Faith. Multiple studies assert that people of faith tend to struggle less with depression and anxiety.
  • Acts of Service: Time insists that charitable giving brings greater happiness than personal spending, and that doing acts of kindness is better still.

Does money buy happiness? No, but it does give us the opportunity to do a scientifically (and Biblically) supported happiness-building activity: spend some on other people. In one study, children as young as 2 years old were given the choice of giving another child small crackers from either their own pile or from that of someone else. They were happier giving away their own crackers! Another study showed that people who commit to doing three or more acts of kindness a week may elevate their happiness level.

Is wanting to be happy a selfish goal? I think not. The Bible talks about rejoicing and gladness and praise. And isn’t it generally unhappy people who become turned in upon themselves, sometimes spreading their gloom as they go? So, let’s make choices that bring good cheer. Currently, only 30% of Americans say they are very happy. Maybe this is the year we can up that number.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

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Time to Be Happy

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When you say “Happy New Year!” do you mean it? I do. I believe in being happy.

  • My favorite book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
  • My favorite verse is “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
  • And my favorite slogan? “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (More about that here.)

I’m not talking about “pie in the sky, life’s a bowl of cherries” happiness, of course. I love these lines from a hymn by John Sammis: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” If we could truly trust God and obey his instructions all the time, I think we would be happy.

Late last year Time Magazine published a special volume called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life.”[1] As I read it, I was struck by how many times their reports on the science of happiness lined up with Biblical instruction. And so, over the next few weeks, pulling from Time and God’s Word, I hope to get us started on a happy year.

January is the time when many of us resolve to take better care of ourselves. We start diets, join gyms, and put Post-its on our mirrors to remind us of newly made promises. This verse has me convinced that self-care is ordained by God: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God…  So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

Time suggests there’s a relationship between happiness and health, due most likely to the tendency of happier people to make healthier choices. This raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Does health lead to happiness, or does happiness promote health? Time asserts that, while our propensity for happiness is 50% inherited and 10% circumstantial, the other 40% is based on choices we make. Why not make the happiest choices whenever possible? Their list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” include… Wait. Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you to tell me what tops your list of Healthy Habits for Happiness. I’ll tell you what the scientists had to say next week.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.