Four Kinds of Happiness

Happiness by Brent Mcrae

Over the past year, with all its stresses, uncertainties, and changes, I have been thinking a lot about happiness and what it means. It is so easy to dwell in self-pity and resentment when life changes in ways we can't control. Believe me when I say that I know this first-hand!

Even prayer, if it is self-focused, can fuel the misery. Do you remember how, in On the Banks of Plum Creek Laura and Mary are taught to pray for others, not for themselves? So instead of asking for Christmas presents for themselves, they pray that Pa will get Christmas horses. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with praying for our own needs, but God-focused prayer and prayer for others are essential parts of the mix. (If you have never read the Little House Books, I thoroughly recommend them. Without being preachy they provide great lessons in making the best of hardship and finding happiness in simple things.)

Without being an expert on psychology, I have concluded that there are four different kinds of happiness.

1. Having a happy nature: We all know people like this; nature's born optimists who smile at difficulties, whose boats float smoothly over the sharpest rocks, and who see the best in everyone. We also know others who are the opposite; who are negative and critical, who envy others their good fortune, and whose glasses are always half empty. Most of us fall somewhere in between. And while the Pollyannas of this world can be irritating to those not equally gifted, we can all learn from their attitude.

2. Having happy circumstances: Studies have shown that people in prosperous nations report greater happiness than those struggling in third-world poverty. There is even a "Satisfaction with Life Index" where all the countries in the world are ranked. Most of us think deep down that if our financial problems were taken away and we had as much money as we could want, then we would indeed be happy. But what about all those wealthy heirs and heiresses who ruin themselves with drugs and desperate behaviour? Clearly, money isn't everything, but some money does help.

3. Happiness that sneaks up unawares: Even when life is grey and ordinary, happy moments can strike us unexpectedly. A baby's smile, spring flowers, witnessing a sunrise or sunset, an act of kindness given or received; can all bring a glimpse of happiness. If we learn to foster and encourage those moments and treasure them, then we can bring greater happiness not only to ourselves but to those around us.

4. Happiness that is a choice: Interviews with the long-term happily-married show that the happiest, longest marriages are not those with the most ideal circumstances or the most ideal couples, but those where the partners are loving and forebearing, willing to overlook minor faults and build on their partner's strengths.

This attitude of choosing happiness can be applied to life in general too. Yet misery and passivity can seem a much easier path. However, if we didn't choose our present circumstances (and many of us have suffered setbacks in the last year or two) then we can choose how to approach the future. We can choose to greet each day with a positive attitude, to treat others well, to work hard at whatever tasks befall us, to pray earnestly, and to seek changes that will improve our lives in the future.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add? If so please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your views, even if you completely disagree with me.

What makes you happy?

No comments:

Post a Comment