Are You Happy?

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March 20th is International Day of Happiness, so I thought we could take a little time this week to consider the subject of happiness and what it looks like in our lives. Ask any two people to describe what happiness means to them, and you will typically get a wide range of answers. Some talk about experiences that lead to happiness, or situations that detract from happiness, while others mention the relationships that bring happiness into their lives.

How would you describe what it means to be happy? Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word Happy is, “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Positive psychologists typically uses the term, “subjective well-being” when referring to happiness. The word itself has its origins in ancient Greek and is closely related to the concept of fortunate, well-off or blessed.

No matter how we define it, almost everyone wants to experience it. Studies show several habits that are generally found in happy people. They include:

  • Relationships
  • Acts of Kindness
  • Exercise and Physical Well-being
  • Sense of Purpose or Flow (Using your gifts and talents)
  • Spiritual Engagement and Meaning
  • Strengths, Virtues and Moral values
  • Positive Mindset: Gratitude, Optimism, Hope

The question is, can people learn how to be happier? The answer is YES! Happiness is not a stagnant trait that only a few lucky people seem to own. We can all grow, improve and make positive changes. Take a thoughtful look at the seven factors listed above. Are there any areas you could work on or strengthen in your life?

It is important to recognize that  no matter what your circumstances look like, you can find ways to increase your level of happiness despite your challenges. In other words, life doesn’t have to be perfect in order for you to be happy. I have met people (and I’m sure you have too) that are miserable, and yet their life circumstances are comfortable. I have also met people who live in very challenging circumstances, but choose to have a grateful and optimistic outlook, employing many of the principles above.

Let’s face it, life ebbs and flows with sadness, joys, difficulties and sweetness. No one experiences happiness 100% of the time. It is important for each of us to grieve our pain and losses as well as enjoy the delights of life. The good news is that we can make deliberate choices that move us in a happier direction and allow us to positively influence the world around us.

Although happiness is fleeting, there is a joy we can experience deep within us. The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” He points us to something beyond the happiness that this world can offer – the joy of the Lord. There is no greater joy than knowing that we are loved and forgiven as we place our faith in Christ and what He did for us on the cross.

This Easter, I encourage you to look to the only One who can bring lasting love, joy and peace into your life. To learn more about a relationship with Christ visit https://chataboutjesus.com

 

Join me for my new series entitled “Increasing Happiness,” as we look at the seven habits of happy people.  Click the follow button on the right, so that you will receive a weekly email.

What Do You Believe?

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As the Easter season approaches, it offers us a time of reflection to consider what we know, trust and  believe about God. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said, “If we begin to worship and come to God again and again by meditating, by reading, by prayer; and by obedience, little by little God becomes known to us through experience. We enter into a sweet familiarity with God, and by tasting how sweet the Lord is we pass into . . . loving God, not for our own sake, but for Himself.” We can begin to trust a God who we know and love, but it is difficult to trust someone we do not know personally.

We cannot understand all of God’s ways, but there are certain qualities we can know about him. Where do we begin our journey of knowing him? The Bible gives us glimpses of the High King of heaven and his marvelous attributes. Here are a few of the numerous qualities we learn about God as we see them revealed in the Bible. I have provided just one biblical reference for each attribute, although there are numerous others.

He is:

Almighty (Genesis 17:1)

Everlasting (Genesis 21:33)

All-Powerful (2 Chronicles 20:6)

Abundant in Strength (Psalm 147:5)

Abounding in Love (Psalm 103:8)

Sovereign (Deuteronomy 3:24)

Merciful (Psalm 62:12)

Trustworthy (2 Samuel 22:3)

Our Keeper (Psalm 121:2)

Our Provider (Matthew 6:26)

Our Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Able—nothing is too difficult for him (Genesis 18:14)

 

I want to get to know a God like this, don’t you? Certainly if God is who the Bible says he is, then he is worthy of our respect, obedience, and yes, trust. Consider where you are with God right now in your life. What do you believe about him? We don’t want to make assumptions about God; rather, we want to explore who he claims to be. As we get to know the God of the Bible, we begin to recognize his abiding love for us. He is worthy of our trust. I encourage you to continue your journey of engagement with God.

Based on what I have learned from the Bible, here’s what I personally believe about God. I believe he is a loving, compassionate, merciful God. I believe he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the payment for my sins. I believe Jesus rose again, offering us the promise of eternal life in heaven one day with him. I believe he has provided his Spirit to live in my life to help us, comfort us, and guide us in truth. I believe he will never leave us. I believe he is a sovereign God who can do all things, knows all things, and sees all things.

What do you believe? Take a moment to write out your statement of belief. Consider why you believe what you believe. Don’t just let what you see on television or hear from friends determine your own personal belief system. If you believe there is a God, then he rightfully deserves to be investigated. Get to know him. Search the Bible and see what it has to say about him. If we ultimately want to be able to trust him, we need to get to know who he is. How can you trust someone you don’t know?

John Calvin said, “Our inklings of the realities of God will be vague and smudged until we learn from Scripture to think correctly about the realities of which we are already aware.” He added, “Unless God’s Word illumine the way, the whole life of men is wrapped in darkness and mist, so that they cannot but miserably stray.” We don’t want to wander aimlessly in our misery or stumble in the dark without hope, simply because we haven’t taken the time to get to know the God of the Bible. He is worthy of our trust and welcomes us into a loving relationship with him.

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This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive 

 

Blog  Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Do you Celebrate Lent?

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This week many people observed Ash Wednesday, and whether you observe the season of Lent or not, we can all glean some positive principles from this sacred practice.

Originally, Lent was intended to be a time of reflection starting on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter. In observing the 40 days of Lent, the thought is that Christians replicate Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. It’s a time to prepare our hearts for celebrating the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf.

Somehow, over the years, the original purpose has become blurred and has more or less turned into a time of year to dump a few unhealthy practices for a season. Perhaps this year we can renew our focus. Turning our eyes upward, let’s ask the Lord what He would want us to do to prepare for the celebration of Easter. Since Lent is meant to prepare our hearts, perhaps we should consider issues of the heart.

What about letting go of:

  • Anger and Bitterness
  • Unforgiveness
  • Gossip and grumbling

What if we choose each day to:

  • Show gratitude to God and others
  • Live with kindness, love and compassion
  • Draw closer to God through prayer and reading His Word

What if we went beyond 40 days and allowed these practices to permeate our hearts as we prepare for not only Easter, but also the day when we will meet Him face to face? May we all use this season as a time of reflection as we seek to love Him more each day.

Take the First Step

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A number of years ago we added a new dog to our home, but she was no small pup. She was a nine-month-old English mastiff named Bentley. Sweet, gentle, and loveable – Bentley was also extremely fearful. One day, she courageously followed me upstairs to the second floor of our house. That was all well and good except for the simple fact that she was too frightened to come down the stairs. She couldn’t seem to figure out how to navigate the first step.

Of course I wasn’t going to allow her to live the rest of her doggy life on the second floor of our house, so I tried to gently help her down. She wasn’t budging. All she wanted to do was sit and bark at the steps. After forty-five minutes of bribing, pulling and coaxing, she finally decided to take the first step down. (Where is the Dog Whisperer when you need him?) Once Bentley accomplished the first step, the second wasn’t too bad. Then the next and the next and finally she was running free on the first floor again! What a relief for both her and us! She obviously had the ability to go down the stairs safely; she just didn’t have the courage to take that first step.

Bentley’s situation made me think how often I nestle safely in my situation or resist moving forward because I just don’t know how to make the initial move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and sometimes out of fear of the unknown I prefer to just stay put. Instead of taking steps in a positive direction, it is sometimes easier just to sit and bark  – or in human terms, whine, complain or make excuses.

Maybe you are thinking of a new career direction or a book you want to write. Or you could be considering a volunteer opportunity or learning a new skill. Or maybe you need to break a bad habit or reorganize the house. For most of us, the first step is typically the hardest one, as well as the most significant.

Stop for a moment and consider the direction God is leading you, and think about what may be keeping you from moving in a positive direction. Are there fears you need to confront? Are you blaming others? Do you need to make changes in your schedule? Are there new skills you need to learn or a class you need to take?

Ask God to give you the courage to take that first step.

 Continue to take little steps day by day, and don’t let discouragement or fear get in your way.

 Like a precious toddler, there will be those times you are walking along and you begin to stumble. But just as a parent kindly reaches down and helps the toddler up to his feet, so the Lord is there with you, strengthening you and holding your hand. David put it perfectly when he wrote:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
 He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
 for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23,24

My friend, do you see the picture of the Lord’s graceful hand helping you up? Keep it in mind as you continue to journey step by step. You may not feel as though you have what it takes, but God can give you the feet you need for the journey ahead. He is strong where you are weak. He is sufficient and able to carry you. Take the first step toward positive growth and change, looking to Him for strength and guidance.

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This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

Blog Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

 

Renegade Smiler

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This past week, I visited my grandson in Brooklyn to celebrate his second birthday.  As I walked the streets of New York, I became keenly aware that as a southern, smiley, blonde girl, I stood out like a sore thumb. From what I have gathered, the unspoken rule of engagement in New York is basically, don’t look at anyone and certainly don’t smile at anyone. Just move forward, walk briskly and don’t engage.

I smiled anyway! I suppose I shocked a few people, but I also detected some people were simply grateful for the connection. Several people managed to eek out a return smile, although I could tell they felt a little uncomfortable.

Humans need connection. A sincere smile can serve as a way to reach into the life of someone who feels lonely or discouraged or thinks that all the world is against her. When we smile, we reassure others that there is hope in the world. A smile speaks love, and can lift the heart of another.

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My grandson’s smiles were contagious, sweet and refreshingly honest. As I looked into his face filled with joy and laughter, I wondered how we as adults have come to lose our ability to smile so freely. Weren’t we created to smile? Aren’t we meant to share happiness with one another? Why don’t we do it? Are we bogged down with too many cares, worries and woes? Are distractions, self-centeredness or busyness the culprits?

I’m not saying we should garnish a fake smile; people can see through that in a New York minute (forgive the pun). We must be honest with our emotions, and if we need to cry, then cry. Trust me, I’m no stranger to grief and have done my fair share of crying over the past few months especially.

Yes, we need to grieve, but we must also look for opportunities to lift up others with a gift from our heart that stretches across our face. Studies show that when we smile, we actually increase the happy hormones in our brains. Make yourself happier, as well as those around you, by taking the two ends of your lips and moving them upwards. Share the love God has put in your heart, by blessing another person with the warmth of your smile. And by the way, you’ll look better too!

 

Photo by Kevin Rajaram on Unsplash