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Posts tagged ‘happiness’

For Better after Worse

I mentioned recently that I’m reading Liz Gilbert’s Committed. She talks about her first marriage a bit, and the “mere” sadness that ended it. Obviously her sadness was not “mere” at all, or it wouldn’t have ended her marriage. It was grinding and pervasive and permanent and all-consuming.

Or so it seemed at the time.

I know many people who have become that sad – that trapped – by their marriages, and been infinitely happier when they left.

marriage vowHere’s the thing: I’ve been that sad in my marriage. I’ve had those days (weeks … months … years) where I honestly thought the only escape from my matrimonial hell would be divorce – or death.

Crying secretly, so no one finds out.

A hurt so real that it’s a physical pain that drives into your joints without relent.

And absolutely no prospect of light or joy on the horizon ever again.

Someone once told me that can sometimes happen in a marriage. And they told me it would pass.

I’ll admit that when I was buried in that mire, I didn’t let myself hope for a moment that it could possibly ever need, that anything could ever be good or right again with us.

But that dear, wise person was right. It passed. (More than once!)

one of the advantages of marriageRight now, we’re happier than we’ve ever been. And our relationship is deeper and more honest than ever before.

I don’t know if this heartbreaking, gut-wrenching agony is a natural part of marriage. I really hope it isn’t. But when I was there, I felt like I owed it to the love we had once, and the young and optimistic girl I once was, to see if – just maybe – my friend had the right of it and things could get better.

I certainly don’t think people should stay in a situation that is toxic in any way, whether it’s abuse of some kind, or it generates that numbing depression that slowly engulfs you in nothing from the inside out.

For me (for us) it was worth it to stick it out. And if it happens again, I hope I’ll remember the lesson.

Joy

joyWe need to enjoy our lives. We need to rejoice: rejoice in every breath, which is always there when we need it, yet taken utterly for granted. We couldn’t exist for three minutes without breath, yet it never crosses our minds to utterly revel in the miraculousness of it.

Each moment is a gift. Each moment, BE in the moment. Notice things. The birds. Traffic. Dogs barking. Sun rising. Sun setting. Daylight streaming through the windows. Stars glittering though the heavens. Artificial light which literally gives us the gift of MORE TIME. Just think about that for a minute: a light switch is a GIFT, giving you more time – to work, play, share time with family and friends – BE.

We can rejoice in the good things that happen to those we love, too. True joy is absolutely absent of jealousy. There’s no comparison to be made. Ever. Each person has their own trials, and we surely wouldn’t want those. And just so, each person deserves their own happinesses, and it behooves us to delight in those with them. We can revel in their blessings in pure, untainted bliss and truly enjoy their success.

bitternessRecently author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautiful post on Facebook. She was quoting from the book “Women Who Run With Wolves”, and talking about the point most women reach in their middle years when they face a choice: to be bitter, or to be better. Her choice was to be better. To let the bitterness go. And her advice, so poignant and perfect and beautiful, was that we should actively, passionately, desperately seek out the joy in our lives. Every ounce of it – every moment, even the tiniest speck of bliss, should be tweezed out of our memories and collected in jars of living ecstasy, gazed on often, relished … we can immerse ourselves utterly in the happiness of living, and become so full of joy (which is both self-perpetuating and contagious) that it becomes the key defining attribute of our lives.

Surely each of us can point to a happy moment in our past? Even just the one? Find it. Hoard it. Cling to it. And share it ABUNDANTLY, because that is how to make it grow.

Enjoy!

Managing time, or being managed by its lack?

I choose happinessYesterday I started my journey to happiness with the five things in my life I wish were different right now. Two of the things I wish for involve my girls: I wish I had more time with them, and I wish I could give them more input.

Belatedly, last night, it occurred to me that I can achieve both: I can give them the training they need (to the best of my limited ability), and in that way have more time with them AND help them start to achieve some of their goals.

I think that pursuing art and dance with Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood will also make me happy. We’ve also found that playing board games is highly educational, interactive, time-smart and happiness-inducing. Not to mention being even easier than dance or art lessons.

So that’s THREE wishes with one metaphorical stone (it’s so shiny :))

PS: Yesterday I made my To Do list and actually ticked off SEVEN items on it! Way to go, productivity.

Action steps:

  • Look up art and ballet tutorial on YouTube
  • Carve out half an hour STARTING TODAY to do at least one of these things with the girls.
  • Tick off another three things on today’s To Do list.

Verses:

How to be HAPPY this New Year

The Pursuit of Happiness

Text:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives examples of the various “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments.

We as humans have latched on to and taken hold of this idea to such an extent that we now believe the pursuit of happiness to be our primary reason for being. We have convinced ourselves that it is our right and, in fact, our duty, to devote our time and energy to those things which make us happiest. Achieving happiness, whether we measure it by our own emotions, the praise of others, or the number of things we amass, is the mark of success in the race of life.

The Latest Fad

Dozens – even hundreds – of books are devoted to the subject. Newspapers, magazines and blogs devote swathes of rainforest to sharing the secrets of happiness. Everything from diet to habits to attitudes to vocation comes under the microscope, ready to be analysed and assessed for its ability to increase or diminish our perceived happiness. Anything less than bliss must be cast aside as rubbish, discarded for its obvious lack of value in the quest for personal pleasure.

A Fad with Flaws

A rational observer will soon see some key flaws in this approach.

From a secular point of view, hard work and easy amusement tend to be at odds with one another. If easy amusement is the ultimate goal in life, it stands to reason that hard work has no value, and in fact detracts from this goal. As such, it ought to be eschewed.

From a spiritual point of view, not only are the quiet disciplines of a life ordered after God’s precepts not immediately obvious as pathways to plain pleasure; the reminders of our sinful nature throughout God’s Word and godly teaching are sure-fire mood killers, and add no profit to a life focused on so-called happiness. Thus, glorifying God and pursuing pleasure are at odds.

Modern Science Shows the Way – or Does It?

A recent edition of the popular modern magazine, Psychologies, draws attention to this phenomenon only too well. This magazine specialises in bringing the very latest advances and discoveries in the world of mental health research to the public, to enable us to benefit from the fast-growing body of knowledge on the subject, and essentially begin to heal ourselves.

This particular issue dedicated three separate articles to the subject of finding happiness, and offered practical advice on how to achieve this goal.

Think Happy Thoughts

The first article related current research showing that, typically, lottery winners find that their happiness peaks briefly after their win, then dips to pre-winning levels, if not lower. In fact, many lottery winners become so depressed, they need to be hospitalised, and some even commit (or attempt) suicide. Giant windfalls provide short-lived mood enhancers, the writer explained. However, the simple act of actively noticing and enjoying the beauty available everywhere, in a focused and intentional way every day, would gradually provide a sustained lift in mood that would not only lead to elevated levels of personal happiness, but would also furnish the person with a reserve of inner strength which would help him through the harder times when they arise (as they will). The writer suggested the company of good friends, stimulating conversation, excellent literature, beautiful sunsets, scenic walks and so forth as potential subjects to enjoy and ponder.

Find Your Happy Place

Another article explained that regular reflection was the pathway to happiness. Taking time every day, the  writer said, to “get away from it all”, and to calm and order your thoughts, would make you more disciplined, more focused, calmer on the inside, and, as a result, happier. Suggestions included yoga and meditation, among others, as ways to take your mind to a more peaceful place.

An Attitude of Gratitude

A third article was in fact a letter of appreciation written to the letter. The writer explained that she had become very discontent with her life, particularly her work. She said that she’d been battling bitterness and depression for some time, when her niece gave her a copy of Psychologies to help her get perspective. One of the articles she’d read reported a study that showed that people who spent their days actively finding things to be genuinely grateful for reported increased happiness, better health, and faster career growth. They tended to be more well-liked by colleagues, superiors and their families, and found that, over time, the quality of their lives improved. The writer of the letter said that she had decided to give this approach “a go”, and had found that it had already begun to have the desirable effects described in the article.

God’s Had the Answers All Along

In each case, the magazine was reporting the most current research on the subject, sharing with us the most-recently discovered ways to pursue personal happiness.

The funny thing is that God has been saying these things for thousands of years.

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul exhorts us with the following:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In other words: actively seek the good, true, pure things God has put in your life, and use your brain to consider those, instead of miring it in the bog of worry and stress we seem determined to infest.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul makes it very simple indeed:

Pray without ceasing.

In other words: don’t give up. Take the time all the time to get your mind quiet and focused. Give your problems to God and await His answers in faith.

This chapter goes on to say, in verse 18,

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In other words: be thankful. As the writer in Psychologies pointed out, an attitude of gratitude takes you places. Paul is not saying for everything give thanks, although we can give thanks for every trial when we choose to see God using that trial to mould us into something useful for Him. But Paul says in everything give thanks. Perhaps your trial is too hard to allow you to be thankful for it. But there are thousands of things in each life for which we can be thankful. And we should.

And to make it abundantly clear, in verse 16 Paul says this potent phrase:

Rejoice evermore.

Now we get to the heart of the matter – and it is a heart matter. He says “rejoice ever more”, then goes on to say, “pray, give thanks, stay away from bad things and focus on the good.” And the result surpasses temporary happiness. The result is joy – sustained, deep, unshakeable joy not dependant on circumstances, relationships, events, health or anything other than the faithfulness of our Saviour.

God knows the recipe, and He graciously shared it with us over 2000 years ago. Scientists think they have finally unlocked the secrets of the highest purpose in man’s life. But they are wrong on two counts:

One is that happiness is not the result of happy thoughts, an attitude of gratitude, or a regular brain drain in meditation. These are second hand substitutes that lack depth, effectiveness and long-term power. The real path to what we believe we want, happiness, is prayer, focusing on the good God has given us, and thanking Him in every circumstance.

More important, however, is that the pursuit of happiness is NOT the point of our existence. The glory of God is. We cannot glorify God, pray without ceasing, thank God even in the face of trials, or reflect on His goodness, if we don’t know Him personally, and experience His grace at work in us regularly. Have you met this Jesus, and do you know Him as your Saviour?

Seven Types of Ordinary Happiness

I needed this today, and finding it spoke to me about God’s understanding of our true, deep needs, as opposed to what we believe we need. This cartoon was posted on Facebook on a page called “Making Sense of Things”. I like that there’s a page dedicated to this, but I was struck by the fact that we have that sense: God has made things plain to us, and everything makes sense in Him. Even when, sometimes, it doesn’t.

The owner of the page said:

From my favourite Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig, demonstrating happiness, contentment, mindful appreciation, being in the moment – in the most ordinary of moments – of the every day 
I love the one that is ‘happiness blended with a mysterious sadness’… it’s always bewildering.

Seven types of ordinary happiness

Seven types of ordinary happiness

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