5 Tactics to Boost Your Happiness

 

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it, then you’re face will surely show it.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Many of us sang that song as a child or have sang it with our own children when they were growing up. It’s a great song to get moving and be active. But this song begs the question . . . what if you aren’t happy?

Defining Happiness

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2019) describes happiness as, “a state of well-being and contentment,” with synonyms of “blessedness, bliss, felicity, gladness, and joy.” These kinds of emotions are often felt at momentous events, such as one’s wedding or the birth of a child. Or, perhaps you are the kind of person who find happiness in the simple, little moments of life.

So how happy are we? According to the 2019 World Happiness Report, negative feelings are rising around the world–and the United States seems to be particularly hard-hit with an “epidemic of addictions.” In fact, when countries around the world were ranked according to their happiness, the USA didn’t even make the top 10, but instead came in at #19 (World Happiness Report, 2019).

A Biblical Look at Happiness

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 15:13 that, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed,” and in Proverbs 17:22 that, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” God did not make us to be “crushed;” He created us for ultimate happiness–spending eternity with Him.

But honestly, it is impossible to be happy all the time because of the presence of sin in our world. Sad things, bad things, scary things are all a part of everyday reality. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised only happiness by being followers of Christ. However, by developing a relationship with God and clinging to Jesus, we can persevere. After all, we are told in Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)

5 Tactics to Boost Your Happiness

 Here are some other ways to give your happiness as boost:

1. Get to know God. Science has shown that spiritual people are better at processing stress, find more meaning in the midst of chaos, are more likely to have gratitude during life’s pleasurable events, and more gracefully process (and perhaps demonstrate joy?) during difficult ones (McGinley, 2019). By spending time in prayer and meditation, it is possible to boost your happiness as you grow closer to your Creator.

2. Find joy in the little things. Maybe you relish the way dipping your toes into a cool stream feels on a hot day. Perhaps you enjoy that first cookie when it comes right out of the oven. Maybe it’s that feeling of sinking into bed after a long day. Life is made up of little moments that help shape our experiences and who we are. By finding joy in the little things, you can increase your overall happiness.

3. Smile more–even if you don’t feel like it. One scientific study (Niedenthal, 2007) showed that even a forced smile can make you feel happier. When you smile, activates neural brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness. So even if you don’t feel happy or like smiling, the simple act of putting a smile on your face can actually help you feel better.

4. Connect with others. Even God saw in the perfect Garden of Eden that it was not good for Adam to be alone. From the beginning, humans have been wired for community and connection. Engaging with others is a great way to boost your overall happiness.

People who regularly spend about a quarter (six to seven hours) of their hours each day with family and friends are 12 times as likely to report feeling joyful rather than feeling stressed or anxious (Harter & Arora, 2008). Also, since happiness is a “collective phenomenon,” research has shown that people who are surrounded by happy people are more likely to, themselves, be happier (Fowler & Christakis, 2008).

5. Ask for help if you need it. Asking for help can be hard, but this element of creating happiness goes along with connecting with others. Finding people with whom you feel safe to be yourself–even when you are vulnerable–is very important. Others may have new insight into your struggles or be able to offer help in a tangible way. As they say, “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Even if you aren’t feeling happy today, take some tangible steps to move towards happiness. You won’t regret it, and who knows–you might even make someone else happy in the process!

References

Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. BMJ, 337.

Happiness. (2019). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved September 12, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happiness

Harter, J. & Arora, R. (2008). Social time crucial to daily emotional well-being in U.S. Gallup. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/107692/social-time-crucial-daily-emotional-wellbeing.aspx

Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., D. Sachs, J. D., & De Neve, J. E. (Eds.). (2019). World happiness report. Retrieved from https://happiness-report.s3.amazonaws.com/2020/WHR20.pdf

Kane, S. (2018). 15 ways to increase your happiness. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-ways-to-increase-your-happiness/

McGinley, K. (2019). The correlation between spirituality and happiness. Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/the-correlation-between-spirituality-and-happiness

Niedenthal, P. M. (2007). Embodying emotion. Science, 316(5827).

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