It’s goodbye 2017 and yet another crazy year for the world.
So how about a little hope and cheer for the beginning of the year? How about some, happiness? Because, ‘happiness is no laughing matter’, (to quote Richard Whately, Churchman).
Where to find happiness?
Interestingly as I was writing this I had the radio on in the background. Every break was pumping out the same advert from a particular dating website (no name necessary).
They know that finding love is a big hope and dream for many in the new year; the chance to be happy. Happiness is romance with the perfect match, right?
But the ‘course of true love never did run smooth’ writes Shakespeare. Very true, don’t expect a certain path to happiness there.
Recently In the post came a brochure from the local gym with the usual new year membership offer, encouraging the ‘get in shape’ obsession for the new year. Could this be not a path to happiness but the treadmill to happiness instead?
The induced perspiring we know of as ‘exercise’ (or if you want to brag about it, ‘working out’), certainly produces endorphins creating a temporary euphoria. But as a fan of ‘working out,’ I can tell you the euphoria subsides and you’re most often left with aching muscles and a hungry stomach. A recommended mood and body enhancer, but not the way to happiness.
The way to happiness tends to disguise itself. We also know it as new year resolutions and what are resolutions for except to make us feel better about ourselves? They force us to change something about ourselves that make us unhappy to get us to a better state of happiness once we’ve achieved it. Whatever the ‘it’ is. Unfortunately, though that feeling invariably passes (if you’re one of the few who can keep resolutions) and there’ll be something else to focus (or obsess) on.
Don’t get me wrong, I like new year resolutions. I have a few of them but that well-worn path doesn’t really solve the happiness question either.
So then, ‘where do you look to find happiness in 2018?’
I mean that seriously. Don’t look for happiness, ever, just ever. Waste of time. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that’s never there. Philosopher, Bertrand Russell once said ‘happiness is not best achieved by those who seek it directly.’ Quite right. He was a philosopher too. Smart man.
Happiness (drum roll please)…
Wow, what profundity! Well, you’d expect nothing less from Not Only Sundays, right?
Irony aside, I reckon you can better your chances of feeling happier this year by putting some basic things into practice.
Here are six tips to stop looking for happiness and have happiness find you. See what you think.
1. ‘One joy scatters a hundred griefs.’ Chinese Proverb.
One way to improve your happiness chances is to be around happy people. Happiness is infectious in the best possible way. It doesn’t mean having to always hang around comedians (they’re often the least happy) but spend some time with people who make you feel good because they’re fundamentally sound and content with life.
Over time this will rub off on you. That’s why your workplace and home life are so important. It’s more about the people around you that makes all the difference.
2. ‘If you want to be happy, be.’ Leo Tolstoy
In our culture, we instinctively think that if we get more stuff, whatever that is, we’ll be happy. Retail therapy has that tag for a reason. It’s like every search for happiness, you may get a short-term gain but with retail therapy, the credit card pain rolls over to the next month.
The best way to beat the ‘buy more’ bug then is to just simply say ‘I’ve got enough stuff.’ There are such things as needs and wants and there’s every chance that what you think you have to have are a want and not a necessity.
Another very good thing to do to beat the temptation to buy more stuff is to practice thankfulness.
Look around at what you’ve got and been thankful for it. It’s that simple. Giving thanks to God before each meal in private prayer or by saying grace can really make a difference too. By doing it often and regularly it really will shift your perspective and you’ll feel more content.
3. ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you.’ Matthew 7:12.
Live the ‘golden rule’ and you’ll definitely increase your happiness levels. It means to reflect on our actions and how we treat other people. Simple really.
At times we need to accept others aren’t in the same place as you or that we just need to be a little more patient or tolerant of others foibles. Also because they’re most likely trying to be patient and tolerant towards yours. Being more forgiving (which is a challenge) helps to put a perspective on our own actions.
Not rushing to judge but instead seeking to understand why a person is how they are or why a situation is what it is will help us to make better decisions and lead to a better outcome for all. Happiness guaranteed.
4. Overcome a challenge or fear.
A nice one this. I always have a great feeling of satisfaction having overcome a challenge or fear and the happiness hit lasts for longer too!
I think more because our very character has been stretched and you grow as a result. Contentment is not really all about sitting still and being satisfied with your lot in life, I think it’s more about a person really knowing and growing in who they are.
So the best way to do this is to stretch yourself. Far be it for me to tell anyone where they need to overcome something in life but I can certainly recommend doing it, you’ll feel better in trying and hopefully achieving it. But a word of advice, make it doable and do it in small bites one step at a time. The very process of overcoming a challenge can be a great learning and growing experience in itself.
5. Practice your passion.
A kind of obvious one this but how many people do it? So many people might have a passion or interest and never pursue it properly.
How many great unwritten books are there because the author just never pursued their passion long enough? How many works of art? How many opportunities to serve? How many discoveries, small and great? How many opportunities missed and friendships never gained as a result of not acting on a passion?
Listen to what motivates you as there’s every likelihood it’s been put there by God and he wants us to act on our gifts.
6. ‘You are not what the world makes you, but you are children of God’. Henri Nouwen.
Surely to hold to this ultimate truth is the bedrock of all happiness and joy. For Christians our hope rests on something so much grander than anything we seek on earth, good that some of these temporary things are. At times we just need to ‘be still and know‘ this.
We have the gift of being loved and accepted so that whatever happens in life, our ultimate identity is secure. As children of God, we should share this fact with others so everyone has the opportunity to experience a deeper lasting happiness, hope and peace, that one day our joy will be complete.
May we all experience more of His blessings for 2018. Happy new year!
© Not Only Sundays, January 2018 (updated from a previous blog published January 2017).
Images CC0 Public Domain – Sourced on pixabay.com under a creative commons licence CC