08
Feb
11

don’t worry, be happy

A recent newscast in our area aired a piece in which the reporter was talking about all the people who deal with the winter blues. There are lots of names for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder, Light Deprivation Syndrome or, my standby, cabin fever. The reporter pointed out that, regardless what you call it, the best cure is to stay active. She then began to make a list of all the ways one could engage their mind and keep themselves busy.

As I was listening to this report I remembered a statistic I had come across recently. According to University of Minnesota researcher David Lykken, happiness is 50% genetic. Some of us are just predisposed to be happy.

But what about the other 50%?

While circumstantial factors (income, education level, age, relationship status, etc.) do matter, the surprise is how small a contribution they make to our happiness; researchers estimate it at only 10%. As an example, it has been reported that once you reach a level of income that meets the needs of shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc. (in the US that’s about $40,000 annually), more money does not produce more happiness.

That leaves 40% and that’s where we find the really good news. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside has discovered that happiness comes from things like: making lists of things for which you’re grateful in your life; practicing random acts of kindness; forgiving your enemies; noticing life’s small pleasures; taking care of your health; practicing positive thinking; and, investing time and energy into friendships and family.

That is reminiscent of what Jesus taught – Those who want to find life (happiness) must “lose” themselves by serving others (Matthew 16:25). Blessed (literally, “happy”) are those, Jesus said, who aren’t self-centered; who comfort others; who aren’t ego driven; who do right by others; who show mercy; who have a clear conscience; and, who seek healthy relationships through reconciliation (Matthew 5:3-9).

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” How happy are you? How happy do you want to be? The research seems to suggest it’s up to you.

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