How To Be Happier

GRATITUDE

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. (source: Harvard University School of Medicine)

I almost got into Harvard University. It was so close.

If I had only had a significantly higher GPA, a better SAT verbal score, a few more philanthropic extracurricular activities, and perhaps had applied…I just may have been accepted.

Despite my inability to get into Harvard, I have always known that it is an amazing academic institution. Today, I got to say something to the excellent minds at Harvard I never thought I would say…”DUH!

Why would I have the audacity to say something like this to the extraordinary academics at Harvard? Well, the world-renowned institution recently completed a study into something God’s Word has been declaring for millenniums.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

HARVARD SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Harvard’s School of Medicine makes the claim in this article that thankful people live happier lives. Expert psychologists and social scientists back up the following Biblical positions on anxiety and gratitude:

  • Self-focus leads to anxiety. Thinking of God first is where we find happiness.
  • Gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised to be enjoyed.

HARVARD SAYS:
With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

SCRIPTURE SAYS (Psalm 42):
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,  my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;  all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

The author of Psalm 42 (most likely David while running from Saul) recognizes his position of anxiety and pain, but reminds himself to look to God for hope, and ultimately to remember his salvation. After plumbing the depths of his own feelings looking for hope, he realizes that it is only when he looks outside of himself that the light of truth streams into his circumstances.  

We live in an increasingly
self-focused world.

Need proof? hire one of our amazing local photographers for this year’s family portraits. when you get them back, proudly post the best one on social media. try not to check the post over and over again for likes, comments, or even those weird smiley faces that you can’t tell are laughing or crying. we are drawn to see if others like our pictures. why? if you are like me it’s not to see if they bring joy to others. It’s because we want the focus on ourselves.

Even Harvard now recognizes that that this level of self obsession does not lead to peace, joy and happiness; rather it only leads to anxiety.

HARVARD SAYS (in this article) :
Psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough have completed a
significant amount of research surrounding gratitude. In one study, they asked participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. A third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

SCRIPTURE SAYS (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18):
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is not a list of ways to feel, but a call to action. Most of us feel thankful instead of being thankful. We rejoice as a reaction instead of an intentional mindset.


Let’s be intentional about heading into days that we know will be tough (it is still 2020 after all) by rejoicing. Let’s stop waiting for something to come along to be thankful for and start seeking out opportunities to be grateful.

Anne Voskamp’s book  One Thousand Gifts is a great place to start if you would like to read something to challenge you on this front. 

YOUR HOW TO BE HAPPIER TO DO LIST:

  1. Remember WHAT God has done (PAST).
    This is the starting point of gratitude and peace.
  2. Remember WHO God has shown himself to be (PRESENT).
    His powerful and loving nature is the source of gratitude and peace.
  3. Remember WHAT God has promised (FUTURE).
    Spend time in the Word and take your eyes off of yourself to see the promises you have in Christ.
JASON SUDDETH,
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY LIFE

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