We are talking about happiness, striving for happiness, because it’s important in everything you do.
Happiness sets us up for success – in spiritual life, and in areas of life including the buckets of Work, Love, and Play.
Create an ethic to choose happiness.
We often consciously prioritize certain activities or areas of life to increase our happiness and flourishing. Perhaps we prioritize relationships or achieving a specific goal. And we don’t often step back as a whole and ask: “How am I investing in my overall happiness and wellbeing?”
Seeking happiness is part of this alignment of our mental, emotional, and physical self with our spiritual realities and bringing all of that into alignment.
We often consciously prioritize certain activities or areas of life to increase our happiness and flourishing. Perhaps we prioritize relationships or achieving a certain goal. And we don’t often step back as a whole and ask: “How am I investing in my overall happiness and wellbeing?”
Martin Seligman, the famous positive psychologist, was out in his yard doing yard work. His daughter was maybe five or six. She said, “Daddy, do you remember when I was four? And I had to learn to stop whining and it was fairly hard for me, but I learned how to stop?”
Martin said, “Yes, I remember.”
She said, “Well, I think if I could learn how to stop whining, you could learn how to stop being so grumpy.”
He really took it to heart. He thought, “ I could learn to be less grumpy and there’s actually a lot of really good reasons why. I would want to do that.”
Last week, we talked about Seligman’s model of happiness as having three levels: the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life. The meaningful life is generally associated with using your strengths, your best virtues, and your highest values in the service of something bigger than yourself.
That reminds you of something as a Catholic, doesn’t it?
In Matthew, 22:37, Jesus says the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and soul and mind. And the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s funny how happiness and holiness are coinciding here.
You can see that striving for happiness involves engaging your whole self. So you can love with your heart, with your soul, and with your mind.
God made us for happiness. We want to be with Him. We want to be happy.
it’s a good desire. He gave it to us. He created us that way.
That great spiritual life wants to be integrated with the rest of you! Including the mental and the emotional realms of you.
There are endless studies that show why it’s great to be happy. To be happier. Happy people are healthier. They live longer. They overcome challenges better. They’re more resilient. They have better relationships. They have more career success. They have less stress and anxiety.
You want to hang out with happy people. You probably wish the people around you were happier – it would make your own life better.
They likely have the same thought about you.
A lot of these studies were collected by Shawn Achor. Rational optimism is a predictor of success. It’s not the other way around. It’s not that you get to a certain level of success and then you become an optimist. The cause and effect runs in the other direction.
Examining our own happiness tells us a lot. It’s like looking at the barometric pressure and temperature gauge to try to understand what’s happening around you in the atmosphere.
When we’re happy, we’re not giving in to negativity. We’re not giving into passivity. We are resisting the resentment, the revenge, or whatever other kind of beast that’s agitating for attention at the moment.
One of the biggest obstacles in spiritual life is discouragement. Happiness is a counter to discouragement. It requires us to trust in God because that is fundamental for hope. Happiness requires hope that we are going somewhere and that what we do means something. That what we are experiencing will lead us to happiness.
Catholic philosopher Joseph Pieper wrote a treatise on hope. He says that one of the characteristics of a truly hopeful person is that they have a kind of youthful joy and experience of life that has an optimistic view.
A perspective that lives life with a kind of freshness of outlook and an interest and joy and awe and inspiration.
Let’s strive for happiness. Let’s find our hope and let’s be those joyful people.
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We are Karen and Curtis Herbert, founders of The Catholic Midlife. Our mission is to spark a catholic midlife renewal and help YOU to step into your next season with purpose, hope, and a clear vision for the rest of your life.
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