How to Be Happy

by Eric Kreye

People do strange things to be happy. According to a survey various countries and their people hold different views on what brings happiness.

Australians believe that health is the most important precondition for happiness.

The Finns say it is kindness.

The Greeks opt for honesty.

The Dutch say beauty in women and handsomeness in men make for happiness.

The British claim a sense of humor is indispensable.

The Italians, Japanese, and Americans agree that money is no guarantee for happiness, but it sure helps!

Some believe that a lot of money and material things bring happiness. But in reality the search for real happiness by many well-known individuals with plenty of money tends to prove that getting what we want seldom brings true joy. Rather, it brings more wants, more responsibilities, and drains one's energies.

Benjamin Anderson commented: "Some people spend all their lives slaving away at a job or occupation so that they can buy a piece of property and a house. But when they finally get all they want, they're too old, too sick, or too busy to appreciate any of it."

In one country people were celebrating being happy by squirting champagne at each other. And as if that weren't enough, they brought in a large truck-load of ripe tomatoes. They proceeded to throw the juicy fruit at each other until everybody and everything nearby was drenched in a runny red mess. And they were happy--at least they looked as though they were happy.

Some people search for happiness in the entertainment world. Others live dangerously by experimenting with alcohol, drugs, sex, or fast cars.

One urban professional gets his high by indulging in eating fancy food. His bill at high-class restaurants usually runs $100 or more.

A well-to-do marketing consultant from a prestigious neighborhood in Philadelphia believes being successful in his career is utopia. He indulges in joining exclusive clubs and from time to time rents a stretch limousine to take him to New York for what he calls a weekend of "fun." That's true happiness for him--he thinks!

One fiercely independent woman has been involved in a whirlwind of activities for at least ten years. Here are just a "few" of the things that keep her apparently happy: swimming and tennis lessons; guitar and clarinet lessons; folk dancing; sailing and photography classes; courses in calculus, European history, child psychology and Italian literature; learning the art of Chinese and Indian cooking; yoga; car-repair instruction; trips to Peru, Greece, Italy, Israel, the Soviet Union, and Mexico; hiking in the Rockies and Canada; group bicycle trips, cross-country skiing...

When asked why she chose to do such a variety of things, she said that it filled an empty spot in her life and she was trying to find happiness.

Opinion polls show that the trend of religious values are becoming more popular with Americans. Many sincere people are looking for lasting values today. Also, many are looking for a better and more secure future. They are tired of the rat-race, the false smiles of many who claim that they have found true happiness.

Take Karen and David, for example. They left a big city for the wide-open spaces in Montana. They now enjoy a very simple life-style. Karen runs a country store and David builds log houses. Formerly he was the production manager of a graphics firm--with stress and pressing deadlines galore.

David and Karen love the great out-of-doors. She confesses, "When I get into the back country, it has such a calming effect on me."

Here are two bright individuals who left the rat-race for a slower pace of life--and love every minute of it!

Here are some ideas for achieving satisfaction and happiness:

Live in the present moment. How many times do we find ourselves living in the past or in the future, not enjoying the moment we are experiencing? We can find joy by looking around and seeing what's happening at the moment. For example, find someone who needs your help, then offer your time and energy generously.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "To forget oneself is to be happy."

Spend time on activities that stimulate you. Accomplish a task by giving it your best shot. Read a book or start a hobby like gardening, hospitality, or sports. Any activity you enjoy can stimulate real happiness.

Make close relationships a priority. Take time to nurture relationships, especially those with your immediate family. When we have a strong support system within our own family and with our friends, it helps boost the immune system and even lowers the risk of premature death. This according to a 30-year study of 7,000 residents in Alameda County, California. We need to share some positive things every day with the people we are close to. If your network has thinned somewhat, seek new acquaintances through your career, hobbies, church, and other interests. Some people choose to work long hours, giving low priority to relationships. Someone came up with this statement:

All work and no play
drives close relationships away.

Take charge of your time. A feeling of helplessness, disconnection, victimization, or disorganization can easily lead to unhappiness. We need to set boundaries too so that we are no longer out of control. Perhaps we have to say NO to a few more requests and stand firm in what we know is a right balance for ourselves. Mastering the use of our busy time will fill the day with productivity. Each deadline we meet offers a feeling of accomplishment and control. Schedule enough time for important projects first, then do the lesser priority tasks as time permits. Don't forget to allow adequate time for nurturing interpersonal relationships.

Practice being happy. Try going through the motions, and the emotions will follow. If you wake up one morning on the "wrong side of the bed," you can stop at that moment and make the decision to start anew. Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean it has to continue. If it means making things right with someone, do it right away and then get on with a happy day.

Replace negative thoughts
with positive ones.

Fill your mind and words with sincere appreciation. The Bible says that a happy heart is good like a medicine. With Christ-centered self-esteem and optimism along with a big smile, happiness is more within your reach than you might think.

Grow spiritually and never lose hope. Spirituality can be defined in many ways, from attending a place of worship, to meditating privately in prayer and study. One Gallup Survey indicated that highly spiritual people were twice as likely as those lowest in spiritual commitment to declare themselves "very happy." A strong and happy Christian knows that his inner sense of happiness comes only by spending special time with Jesus every day.

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, made this statement:

"Happy is he who trusts in the Lord."
--Proverbs 16:20

One word of caution: If you have continuing trouble with not being happy and you are filled with a lot of depressive thoughts, it might be wise to check with your physician. You may need his help so that you can be happy again--or from sad to glad!

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