Can we learn to be happy?
Note: In this time of Thanksgiving, we thought it was appropriate to repeat a piece Pastor Jim wrote a few years ago about happiness.
The developers of Happify are working from an intriguing premise: that happiness is a skill which, like all skills, can be acquired through practice. The website is designed is to provide users with exercises that will help build their capacity for happiness.
Happify identifies five skill-sets, that are key conditions for fully lived lives. These are “savoring,” “thanking,” “aspiring,” “giving,” and “empathizing.” It’s all based on the work of Martin Seligman and the field of positive psychology he pioneered.
I’m not a research psychologist, so I have no academic basis on which to evaluate Happify’s claims. (If someone is reading this has a background in this area, I’d love to get together and talk.)
Having said that, the five key areas do have a level of common sense truth about them. What’s more they have striking similarities to aspects of Biblical teaching.
“Savoring,” the ability be in the moment, reminds me of Jesus’ encouragement to consider the lilies and the birds of the air and not worry about tomorrow. The call to thankfulness is all over the Scriptures, not least in the Psalms. “Aspiring” recalls Paul’s admonition to offer oneself as a living sacrifice and to press on toward the goal. “Giving” has lots of parallels in the Bible including Jesus’ evaluation of the gift of the widow. Empathy is encouraged by Paul as a sign of the unity of the body of Christ.
I’m not surprised by these parallels. Perhaps you aren’t either. What’s good to remember is that these Biblical admonitions to a more mindful life are directed to those who are already aware of God’s undeserved grace for them, who trust in God’s promise of forgiveness and life. and who are now called to live their lives as signs of the resurrection which is their hope.
Happiness, of itself, won’t save you. But attentive development of the skills and attitudes that lead to happiness might make you a better witness to the resurrection that Christ has won for you. Happify believes it will make you feel better and they’re probably right.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valpo and takes turns writing weekly reflections.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future