Who wouldn’t like to experience more true happiness in their life? Or is it just me? I say this because I’ve noticed in several areas a general feel that happiness is the hedonistic cousin of joy and therefore, should be shunned especially by Christians. I think the issue lies in the general understanding of the definition of happiness, happiness is commonly believed to be transitory and based on external circumstances whilst joy comes from within and most often from God.
I personally really like the definition of happiness put forward by Positive Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. She defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile”.
True happiness is so much more than the shallow version we have accepted it to be, it is an internal state that incorporates both contentment and joy! Most scholars that study happiness hold the understanding that true happiness is much more than just surface positivity and view it instead as something that nourishes and uplifts the soul, adding richness and pleasure to our experience of human life. And there are those who have intentionally striven to pursue a happy life not with the goal of having things end up their own way all the time, but with a deeper goal of living more fully, contently and authentically.
We often separate joy and happiness and in doing so happiness becomes something which is bad, dangerous and profane whilst joy is seen as good, beneficial and sacred. We can even fall into the trap of cherry-picking scriptures to justify the perspective that God desires us to be joyful but cares nothing for our happiness especially if it involves anything to do with experiencing pleasure, so how do we reconcile scriptures such as Psalm 16:19:
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.Psalm 16:19
Pleasure and fullness of joy are both aspects of the same thing, the Path of Life and so for me adhering to a shallow definition of happiness does me greater harm than good. I am most rich in life when I experience all facets of happiness whether that’s contentment, joy, well-being or pleasure.
This is something that I have been pondering over and more consciously choosing over the years and as it’s a brand new year and decade, I’d love to share with you some ideas and thoughts on how you can embrace true happiness that has stemmed from my own reflections, work and experiences.
True Happiness Tip 1: Stay Focused
Have you heard the saying stay in your own lane? This saying speaks to me about not getting distracted by what other people around you are doing and focusing on your own goals and visions instead. Distraction is problematic for a number of reasons, firstly it can lead to comparisonitis and secondly it can create anxiety, fear and doubt that you are making a mistake. The scripture that this brings to mind is Joshua 1:7 on not turning to the right or the left, but actually this idea originates and is best explained by Proverbs 4: 25-27:
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.Proverbs 4: 25-27 (Various)
Proverbs points out the importance of not only staying on your own path but also the importance of keeping your own path in your thoughts so that your end goal is established. If you cannot settle on a road to travel on, it will likely take you ages to get anywhere if at all, and where you end up might not bring you any real joy or happiness at all. Which leads me to the second point.
True Happiness Tip 2: Know Yourself
Have you taken the time to honestly reflect on who you are, what brings you joy and happiness, what makes you tick and what lights you up? Being truly happy can only really emerge when we are living a life that is truly meaningful to us, a life that nourishes our soul even during those times when things aren’t going as we would want it to. This requires authenticity. From a young age, we learn to put on masks and play roles that serve us well in society until we realise that none of it really brings us any joy or happiness. Many of the ladies I have coached have struggled with authenticity as a result of fearing the consequences of what being true to themselves would bring which is why I often say that to truly be happy takes courage and confidence. If you are living someone else’s version of what life should be, if you are too concerned with what others will think of you then you are limiting yourself to experiencing less happiness than you deserve and what God intends for you.
True Happiness Tip 3: Do the Inner Work
Taking time to focus on you and do the inner work is crucial to creating greater happiness in your life, yes we all go through difficult seasons but my experiences of depression especially teach me that it is a result of not nurturing what is true and eternal within us. Doing the inner work is partially about peeling back the layers but it is also about breaking free from bonds that stop us from living more fully and freely every day. I’m not going to say that perfection exists in this lifetime because it doesn’t but by the same token neither does living a life that holds no joy or pleasure for you. You get to choose where along the spectrum of life you want to live in the main and the best way you can do this is by doing the work that enables you to choose life with the greatest ease and pursue it with the greatest vigour.
True Happiness Tip 4: Focus on the Things that Matter
This is kind of like the first point I mentioned but it goes a bit deeper, we are constantly bombarded with noise about lists, whether it’s to-do, goals or buckets etc but actually most of the time very little of those things matter. We judge ourselves by how much we accomplish rather than the quality of what we accomplish, it is much better for your well-being and happiness to focus your energy on the things that matter most to you as it is those things which will truly increase your joy and happiness. Instead of struggling to achieve 10 things every day and then patting yourself on the back for being super-productive (I mean how important is that to you anyway?), if you really want to experience greater happiness and contentment focus on 1-3 things that will have the greatest positive impact on your quality of life instead.
True Happiness Tip 5: Count your Blessings
Gratitude and thanksgiving are two sides of the same coin, out in the world we are told to have the attitude of gratitude whilst the Bible constantly reminds us of the importance of giving thanks. In essence, what we are being reminded of is the virtue of counting our blessings and not taking anything we have or anything we experience for granted, this is the cornerstone for experiencing greater contentment in our lives. Instead of focusing on what we have lost (past-orientation) and what we do not have (future-orientation) learn to truly savour and appreciate the abundance and bounty present in your life today.
To illustrate this point, I once worked with a lady who was very negative about her life due to the experiences she had faced, she had recently split from a bad relationship, was without her own home and jobless and her mental health had taken a nosedive. At that time I was giving away 15-minute laser sessions and she enrolled on one, I listened to her story and the gave her a few tips of which one was about learning to practice gratitude. Seriously, from that moment on I was regaled with how much her life had changed since she started to focus on her blessings instead of her curses – from the bird singing outside the window to being able to ride her bike to a quiet spot, without fail she journalled a gratitude diary every day. The end result saw her life changing dramatically, she reconciled with her estranged family, began to slowly convert them to Christianity and now has a flourishing job! I’m not lying when I say that this lady is always smiling and can see the good in a bad situation.
True Happiness Tip 6: Be in the Moment
Are you taking time to be in the moment or do you find your eyes and your heart is drawn to the past or the future? Scripture reminds us that where our treasure is our heart is also; if you truly treasure experiencing greater peace, joy, contentment, well-being, happiness and pleasure then it is crucial that you learn to rest in the moment. One thing that I have learnt is that the presence of God is always now, in the stillness and quietness of the moment walking and breathing beside us through the day. The richest we can ever feel and the happiest we can ever feel is in the present moment. Take time to enjoy the here and now, slow things down and fill it with the things that matter the most to you – it’s not just about achieving things and about being busy, it’s also about the journey and quality of the moments you experience along the way. Make time for laughter, make time, for pleasure, make time for fun, make time for silliness.
True Happiness Tip 7: Choose it
Probably the most powerful tip I can share with you is the importance of understanding that happiness is something that you have to work at, it does not come easily because our brain is hard-wired for survival which is a basic animal instinct. True happiness is a choice to raise ourselves above survival, above the things that might go wrong in our lives, the things that aren’t exactly as we would want them to be such as disappointments and setbacks and choose happiness instead. The scripture that speaks to me the most clearly about this is James:
Count it all joy, …when you meet trials of various kinds…James 1:2
I wish growing up I had known that happiness was something that I didn’t have to wait to experience depending on my circumstances, I wish I had known that I could be content despite it all, I wish someone had told me that I could choose joy. Now, I realise that whilst my mind might want to default to the negative at times, I don’t have to go along for the ride, I can choose a happier mindset that allows me to be at peace and work towards creating greater happiness and joy in the future. Because I think that’s the thing that we often forget, what we sow today, we reap tomorrow. Some days it may be harder to be happy but we keep on choosing and practising it anyway knowing that this is changing our circumstances via our character and giving us something bright and hopeful to look forward to in the future, something much closer to our dreams and visions being made real.
I hope that this blog post has been a blessing to you and if it has, share it with someone who you think will benefit from it. And if you’d like to talk to me about how I can help and support you create greater happiness in your life then click the image below to book a no-obligation discovery call.
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”― Eckhart Tolle