Newsletter #466 – Focus on Happiness

Happiness research has become a hot topic in the past few years. For centuries poets, philosophers and theologians have written about happiness, especially how to find and sustain it. Then, about twenty years ago, psychologists, economists and neuroscientists, among others, began to study happiness scientifically. The current issue of Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) summarizes the history of happiness research and documents how happiness can have a significant impact on business, leadership, counseling, coaching, and almost every area of life. Here are a few specifics:

  • “Improving your happiness improves your chances of success.” We improve
    happiness by developing new habits, nurturing or encouraging others, and developing positive attitudes about stress. “Stress is not just an obstacle to growth; it can be the fuel for it.”
  • Happy employees and team members are more productive and engaged in their work than those who are unhappy. These thriving people are passionate and enthusiastic because they sense that what they do makes a difference. They blossom when they are challenged but wither when threatened. Happy people also learn continually, developing their abilities and new skills.
  • Major events like a promotion, raise or new purchase don’t bring sustained happiness. That comes from consistent experiences that we see as positive. This may seem like may be “small stuff…but small stuff matters.”
  • Gratitude matters too. “Write down the things you’re grateful for, and tell somebody why,” says one article. Gratitude may be one big secret of happiness.

A few magazine articles cannot summarize all of the happiness research. But how interesting that the HBR never mentions God or the happiness that comes to people who know what they believe, have hope for the future, and share their beliefs with other believers who give friendship, support and encouragement. Is this an aspect of happiness research?

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

9 Comments

  1. it is a sign of the times – people who are blind to it are really blind and becoming worse (if that’s possible!)

    Reply

  2. For 40 years I have been speaking positive comments to serious trauma survivors on what they told me what was good in their life, rather then what was their problem. This framework enabled them to decide if they were ready to face the past or not. In any case it brought much happiness inspite of the hard work which trauma processing takes.

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  3. No. In God’s providence, he has chosen, because of his great mercy and grace, to permit people to be happy whether they choose to acknowledge Him or not. Consequently, happiness can be experienced independently–it’s not dependent on Christian faith. Isn’t it interesting, too, that we have so many self-confessed unhappy Christians.

    Reply

  4. I believe that happiness is a choice we make to have. We may be believers and still choose life without happiness, we may have all that we peceive to bring us happiness and still choose to live an unhappy life by allowing negative issues to affect us. However,the only source of true happiness is found in the person of Christ. For even when we are weak, we’ll know that in Him we are strong

    Reply

  5. I have found a certain magnetic aspect to being “happy.” it tends to draw the best from others. Even in the midst of a current battle w cancer I find that remaining happy (grateful, positivd,) has such a profound effect on my caregivers as well.

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  6. Yes, I think a Christian should definitely be a happy person. After all, we know where we are going and how we are qualified to go there. Of course, if we are back-slidden or have some secret sin we may not enjoy the happiness we should. On the other hand, when trouble comes pouring in like flood, it is difficult to be happy. After I suffered a severe rejection I was depressed for a month, until the Lord opened a door for me to serve Him again. The next time it happened, only much worse, it took a whole year before I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and got peace. Tomorrow (after almost 4 years) I will be able to “get my teeth“ into a new project. I can truly say though that I have been happy for the past 3 years in spite of the lies and rejection! Praise the Lord!

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  7. Ahh the ongoing debate of happiness versus Christian Joy.
    This topic goes to the heart of how I became a Life Coach through the AACC (ICF in the works). In September of 2002, while spearfishing I was ran over and pretty much cut in half by a boat whose operator broke several laws. Miraculously, I survived twenty minutes with no blood pressure. During my extended hospital stay, staff remarked that they normally strap to the bed someone in my painful and severely disabled state, so as to prevent suicide attempts. “Thanks for that tidbit,” I thought.
    I realized they were commenting about “the hope that was in me,” my faith in Jesus Christ and that I knew “the plans He has for” me. God had a reason for this accident and my incredible survival. God brought several of the hospital staff to me and they shared difficulties in their lives while listening to my testimony. Everyone was great except for the two (non-believing) Rehabilitation Hospital Psychologists. They were convinced I was in denial. I’d love to tell you I am a person of great faith, but the truth is in my industry where a score of 99% means the rocket blew up just before orbit (an ultimate failure), one tends to be a control freak.
    I had nothing left but God. And boy oh boy, is He more than enough. I truly experienced joy and peace that is only explained by the changes God has made in my life in the 29 years I have been a Christian.
    Permanently disabled now, I love working with folks who are going through “stuff.” I am no counselor, and I make that clear from the very start. But by focusing these men (so far) on the future that God has for them, God has given me a new, eternal focused purpose which gives me a joy the high-tech world of the space business, for all it’s man-made glory, cannot match.
    It’s easy to be happy when everything is going right. Only God can give the joy required when things aren’t going so great. Too bad the HBR article missed that.

    Reply

  8. I connect with the idea that gratitude leads to happiness. As a Christian, I have to choose to focus on what is good and choose to be thankful. When I do that, I am happier, but it does seem to be a choice, even for Christians.

    Reply

  9. I think that joy is a gift from the Holy Spirit, but I believe that happiness takes deliberate choice and practice. I also believe that happiness flows out of the heart that practices the art of gratitude. When my kids were young and I was a single homeschool parent, we started an Ebenezer book. Each night we would record the things we were grateful for that God had done for us that day. Looking for the blessings. It was a good way to end the day on a positive note…looking for what we had rather than what we lacked. I continue the practice to this day, even though my kids are grown and have their own families. I also recommend the practice of the gratefulness journal to my clients. It’s a way to fellowship with God and a way to encourage mindset shifts from the past toward the future full of possibilities.

    Reply

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