I was in a bad mood recently, and it wasn’t easy to pull out of it. I’m not a hugely emotional person; I don’t usually have trouble motivating myself to get moving, but this time I was having a rough go of it. In the midst of this, a friend of a friend won a Mercedes-Benz through some kind of lottery!
First thought: I was happy. So these things do happen to people within my somewhat extended world! Second thought: Where’s my Mercedes-Benz?
In the last few years, psychologists and researchers have been digging up hard data on a question previously left to philosophers: What makes us happy? Researchers like the father-son team Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Stanford psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and ethicist Stephen Post have studied people all over the world to find out how things like money, attitude, culture, memory, health, altruism, and our day-to-day habits affect our well-being. The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.
Heavenly Father, You could have made me perfect according to my standards or someone else’s, but You didn’t. Instead, You made me just the way You wanted me—perfect according to Your standard. To realize that is to find perfect peace, security, and rest in Your love. Thank You!
Do you know who the happiest people are? Those who have the courage to be themselves, just the way God made them, rather than try to be something they’re not in order to fit in or impress others. Struggling to live up to what you think others expect of you puts a heavy weight on you, but there’s freedom in humility.
Question: Why is it that some people seem to lead charmed lives? They have perfect looks, perfect health, lots of natural abilities, and lots of friends—everything—while people like me seem to have no end of deficiencies and problems.
Answer: On the surface, things often don’t seem fair, but a lot goes on in every person’s life that is unseen by others. In the wise words of King Solomon in the Bible, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”1 Not everyone goes through the same rough spots or at the same time, but everyone has their share eventually.
“That’s not fair” must have been my three most-used words when growing up. It seemed that someone—or everyone—always had it better than me. By my early teens I had a well-developed measure-and-analyze mindset, and I was particularly obsessed with comparing my looks, personality, and abilities with those of other girls my age.
When I came into young adulthood and joined an office team, it was all about measuring up at work. I was convinced that the only way I would ever be accepted or appreciated was if I made up for my relative lack of skill and experience by working harder than everyone else. I was always trying to gain points (whatever those were and whoever was giving them out), and I was always frustrated with my self-assessed score.
If all the flowers in the world were one color, or if there was only one type of tree, it would get boring after a while. Beauty is found in variety—the varying types and textures, hues and shades. I don’t understand why people try so hard to all look alike. What’s the beauty in that? I look at these models walking down the runway, and while many of them have symmetrical chiseled features‚ great skin, and what the media and fashion industry promote as “perfect” bodies, most of them look similar. They’re perfect examples of cookie-cutter beauty.
Dressing my three preschool sons alike seemed sensible at the time. It made clothes shopping easier, for one, and because they were brothers with similar builds and complexions, they looked good in the same clothes. At home it gave a sense of order, however superficial, to a household with three little boys in perpetual motion, and in public it showcased what I was sure was the most adorable set of kids ever. On a deeper level, it appealed to my sense of equity. I didn’t love one above the others, and had determined to never say or do anything that might cause them to think otherwise; I would treat them impartially in all things, big and small.
But as soon as they got old enough to make more of their own choices, coordinated clothes were out. As their individual needs changed and became more diverse, I found I continually needed to adapt and change how I gave each one my love and support. I still didn’t love one more or less than the others, but I couldn’t always treat them the same.