Do you ever say, ‘I will be happy when…?’

‘My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.’ James 1:2-4

I don’t think I am alone in my tendency to think – when I have more staff I will be happy, or when I reach my goal of twenty students then I will be happy, or when we raise enough money to pay off the loan or a hundred and one other things that have to happen before I can be happy. There’s always seems to be something that stands in the way of our happiness.

Shawn Achor, author of the happiness advantage, was shocked when he began his research at Harvard: the students at one of the most prestigious universities in the world were largely unhappy. Sure, they were ecstatic initially, “I’m going to Harvard!” But, within just weeks, they were complaining about their stress, worrying about their workloads and competing with other students. 

There’s a scarily common faulty premise at the bottom of all this unhappiness. Most people believe that once X happens, then I’ll be happy. 

But the research shows the opposite. The research shows that when we’re happy, then success follows.

There are so many scriptures that encourage us to be happy or rejoice or count it all joy. For instance: The idea of rejoicing occurs more than 16 times in the short book of Philippians. Philippians is often known as the “Epistle of Joy” because of Paul’s attitude in prison. Rejoicing in every circumstance and finding joy amidst trials is a major theme. The psalms are full of praising and thanking God for who he is and what he has done.

But somehow, we get pulled down into negative thinking, anxiety, complaining and hoping that happiness will drop in our lap once this or that has happened.

So, what can we do to actively pursue happiness. It’s critical in our fast paced, social media, digital age, to slow down for just a few minutes at some point in the day to reflect a little. I find it helpful to actually write things down in my digital journal but if that’s not you, then take time to speak your thoughts out.

I created a template years ago, in my journal that asks me questions that the author Achor also suggests. He lists five critical strategies (slightly edited) to begin increasing your happiness levels:

  1. Write down three new things you’re grateful for (or appreciate) for 21 days in a row. I actually write down five things everyday. I find two or three things come pretty quickly and I have to dig a little deeper for the next couple of items. As Paul found writing from prison, there is always something we can be thankful for.

  2. Journal about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours, allowing your brain to relive it. Psalm 77:12 ‘I ponder all you’ve done, Lord, musing on all your miracles.’ Days go by so fast, and we move on from one event to the next without stopping to appreciate what has taken place. At the end of the year, my wife and I look back to remember the many varied experiences we have had. Without daily, monthly, yearly debriefs we so easily forget the blessings we have enjoyed and the grace we have received to walk through life’s challenges.

  3. Exercise for 2% of a day – that’s just 30 minutes. We all can prioritize a few minutes every day to take a walk or to do a short workout, but many don’t. The research is clear that just a 30 minute walk a day makes a huge difference to your health. Get those endorphins working for you and giving you a lift as well as helping you stay fit and healthy.

  4. Meditate for at least 10 minutes per day. There are many benefits from meditation. Rite and I use ‘Lectio 365’ an online daily devotional from Pete Grieg and 24/7 Prayer ministry. You can read it or listen to it and then we usually spend time praying into what we have been thinking about. This activity helps to centre us into the day, to calm our emotions and set us up for the events of the day to come.
  5. Write one positive email (or send one positive text or make that phone call), praising or thanking someone in your support network. I have always been blessed when someone writes to me, not asking me to do something or reporting on some project but simply to say hi and share some encouragement. It doesn’t happen that often so its extra special when it does. Think how you can make someone’s day through some simple words of encouragement, affirmation or honour. What power there is in the tongue to bless others.

Some personalities are naturally more positive and get out of bed with a smile on their face. Others like me, require some warming up, and the above five points can definitely help me gear up for the day. You may remember the song made famous by Monty Python – ‘always look on the bright side of life!’ Scripture says it in this way –  ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ Philippians 4:4

The bottom line is – pursue happiness and then you will see success. And as we were looking at last month, success is more about who we are becoming and our relationships than the tasks we perform and being happy helps that kind of success.

Until next month,


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