This is a very long post; I considered breaking it down into two parts, but I concluded that readers don’t have to read all of it at once and I will let you decide where and when to stop.
I watched the movie “The Bucket List” again a couple of days ago; I had forgotten a lot of good parts in the movie. It opened with Morgan Freeman’s character saying of Jack Nicholson’s character, “by any measure, Edward Cole lived more in his last days on earth than most people manage to wring out of a lifetime. I know that when he died his eyes were closed and his heart was open.” It made me wonder what are the ingredients and what is the recipe for a happy life? How do we “wring out” a happy and fulfilled life? So my extensive research began by Googling “happy living”; and I got 293,000,000 results in less than one second. So all I have left to do is read the 293,000,000 articles and write up a summary to post on my blog.
The first article that caught my eye was titled “Ten Easy Steps to Happier Living”. Because I believe that the answers to life’s questions are contained in the Bible I thought it would be a good exercise to compare the “ten easy steps” to what the scripture teaches us. The article begins with a lead-in which includes the following statements:
“For thousands of years, people have looked to philosophy, religion and grandmotherly wisdom for answers to such questions. But in recent decades this ancient wisdom has been tested by scientific research.
Scientists have found that although our genes and circumstances matter, a huge proportion of the variations in happiness between us come from our choices and activities. So although we may not be able to change our inherited characteristics or the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we still have the power to change how happy we are – by the way we approach our lives.”
Here are the ten steps to happier living from the article with my scripture references following:
- Do things for others
Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them; it’s good for us too. It makes us happier and can help to improve our health. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone. It’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good.
Gal 6:2- “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Heb 6:10- “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”
Heb 13:16- “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
John 15:12- “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
- Connect with people
Our relationships with other people are the most important thing for our happiness. People with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Our close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self-worth. Our broader social networks bring a sense of belonging. So it’s vital that we take action to strengthen our relationships and make new connections.
Prov 12:18- “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Prov 15:1- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Eph 4:32-“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Eph 4: 29-“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Eph 5:25-“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”
1 Peter3:7-“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
- Take care of your body
Our body and mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as healthier. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of depression. We don’t all have to run marathons – there are simple things we can do to be more active each day. We can also boost our wellbeing by spending time outdoors, eating healthily, unplugging from technology and getting enough sleep.
1 Cor 6: 19-20-“Do you not know that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Ro 12: 1-2-“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Notice the world around you
Have you ever felt there must be more to life? Good news – there is. And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice. Learning to be more mindful and aware does wonders for our wellbeing, whether it’s on our walk to work, in the way we eat or in our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Matt 6: 25-30-“Therefore I tell you, 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 neither sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin, yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Job 12: 7-10-“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
Ro 1: 20-“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Ps 19:1-“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
- Keep learning
Learning affects our wellbeing in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things throughout our lives, not just through formal qualifications. We can share a skill with friends, join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and so much more.
Ps 32: 8-“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Ps 25: 8-9-“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”
Colossians 3: 16-“ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Titus 2:1-“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”
John 14:26-“ But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
- Have goals to look forward to
Feeling good about the future is really important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these have to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible, this creates unnecessary stress. Choosing meaningful but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.
Ps 33:11-“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
Prov 19:21-“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Prov 21:5-“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.”
Prov 29:18-“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.”
- Find ways to bounce back
All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. How we respond to these events has a big impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.
Is 40:31-“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.”
Is 41:10- “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
2 Cor 4:16-18- “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Ro 8:18-“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
- Take a positive approach
Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride – don’t just feel good when we experience them. They also help us perform better, broaden our perception, increase our resilience and improve our physical health. So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.
Philippians 4:8-“ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
Prov 17:22-“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Ro 8:28-“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Philippians 4:6-“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:13-“I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength.”
- Be comfortable with who you are
Nobody’s perfect. But so often we compare a negative view of ourselves with an unrealistic view of other people. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got – makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our wellbeing. It also helps us accept others as they are.
Ps 139:14-“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Gen 1:27-“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Eph 2:10-“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Jer 29:11-“’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
- Be part of something bigger
People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. But where do we find meaning and purpose? It might come from doing a job that makes a difference, our religious or spiritual beliefs, or our family. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
John 1:12-“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God”
Ro 12:5-“so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
1 Corinthians 3:9 –“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
Eph 2:19-“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”
In summary, I think this first article aligns with Biblical principles and offers good suggestions to help us live happier. Interestingly, NBC’s Today show had a segment on the happiest place in the world to live. It aired today, Oct 16 and Denmark was the country selected as the happiest place to live; Copenhagen was the city where most of the scenes were shot. There were some interesting observations about why the Danes are generally happy people. The link below will take you to the segment which is about 5 minutes long.
So, that’s one article down and 292,999,999 to go! Have a happy day!