By Daniel Vogler
First of all I want to thank brother Shyju for allowing me to speak to the Guarding the Heart Community. His writings have inspired me many times, so I feel honored to be featured on this blog and will give my best to provide an encouraging, pratical and uplifting message to you.
Are you happy? I assume You answered this question with at least a semi-convincing “yes”.
But what, if I ask you “Are you as happy as can be”?
Chances are your brain is now coming up with a list of reasons why you can’t possibly be perfectly happy yet. Lightning fast it plays down a list of things you need to achieve or gain before you could ever allow yourself to become immersed in complete joy.
You might now have these thoughts: “I will be truly happy when…
– … I find the perfect partner.”
– … I get that promotion.”
– … I’ll see my life’s vision & mission fulfilled.”
– … I drive an Audi R8 and have led 100,000 people to Christ.” (okay, maybe that’s only me)
Why You Need to Separate Happiness From Success
The point is that billions of people are running around every day chasing happiness. They all think it’s just around the next corner, behind that next success-milestone. Interestingly once they reach that corner, they immediately see an other one in front of them and so they keep running around the block for most of their lives. Circle after circle after circle…
Shawn Anchor, leading expert in the field of “positive psychology”, puts it this way:
“…if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”
In other words: It’s hard to find happiness after success if the definition of success keeps changing as soon as you arrive there.
I’m sure you have experienced this yourself. You set some goals in your business or ministry and think once you finally get there, everything will be like Heaven on Earth. Here’s what really happens: The day you hit those goals, you somehow can’t enjoy the breakthrough you just had as much as you thought you would. That’s because in your head you’re already dreaming about what’s next.
Even (secular) serial entrepreneur and founder of Monumental Sports & Entertainment Ted Leonsis says that:
“…happiness leads to success, not the other way around. I used to think when I sold my company and made lots of money, I’d finally be happy. Well, I wasn’t…”
Millions of wealthy and successful people are experiencing that same lack of happiness every day. That’s because the battle about happiness is won in your brain, not your external world and circumstances.
“90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by your external world, but by the way your brain processes… dopamin, which floods into your system when you’re positive has two functions: not only does it make you happier, it turns on all the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.” – Shawn Anchor
The apostle Paul already knew 2,000 years ago what psychologist are discovering today. He advised the Believers in Rome:
“be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Rom 12:2
But how does this mind renewal really look like? I asked happy people I know, did some research online and took a look at experiences in my own life. After a couple of weeks I came up with 5 scientifically and biblically proven ways you can re-wire your brain to become more positive and therefore happier.
Are you ready? Alright, here we go:
1. Practice Gratitude:
After about 21 days of repeating this exercise, your brain will adopt the pattern of scanning the world for the positive first, not the negative.
If you do this daily, you literally “condition” your brain to think positively. The transformation in your thinking will even manifest physically through changes in your synapsis and brain cells.
Gladly as believers we always have plenty of reasons to be thankful:
“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” – Psalm 106:1
2. Start Journaling:
Remember how your high school teacher would make you write sentences down saying this way you’ll remember better? Well, he was right.
By journaling about one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours you allow your brain to re-live that moment and create many positive memories.
I do this oftentimes when I remember all the times God has blessed me or used me powerfully to bless others in the past. It always inspires me to step out again or believe God for breakthrough.
Israel’s real problem has always been that they kept forgetting all the great things God had done in the past. I’m sure journaling would’ve helped them with their reoccurring amnesia.
“They forgot the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them.” – Judges 8:34
Meditation – simply put – is the opposite of multi tasking. It means to focus on only one thing and block everything else out. Today psychologists recommend to practice meditation daily to eliminate stress and support intentional living.
As Christians we know what really matters is what you mediate on. Everyone today is taught to “worry about their future”. The problem is that worrying is nothing else than meditating on the worst possible outcome of a situation. We are taught by society to constantly imagine the bad consequences and emotions we might have to deal with, if something goes wrong.
Why not use that same imagination to instead paint a picture of the most positive future possible? Why not allow yourself to picture the joy of seeing God’s promises fulfilled in Your life?
King David for one knew of the power of positive imagination and meditation:
“I lie awake at night, thinking of your promises.” – King David (Psalm 119: 148)
4. Random Acts of Kindness:
Years ago I discovered that every time I stepped out of my comfort zone to encourage or bless someone, I felt great. Seriously, I’ve had divine encounters which left me feeling more in God’s presence than any worship service I’ve ever experienced.
I remember one of the first times I felt God leading me to approach random strangers – in this case two teenagers – on a public square when I was about 16 years old. After hesitating for quite a while I finally approached them and got into a conversation. When I told them I had come to tell them God really loved them, I was shocked to watch them both break out in tears. It turned out the two were planning on committing suicide and gave God an ultimatum, telling Him if He won’t send someone, they won’t believe He existed. I couldn’t fall asleep until early in the morning that night, because my heart was so overwhelmed with praise and thankfulness.
Being obedient to God’s leading really isn’t a purely self-less, sacrificial act. Even Jesus understood how “being used by God” can seriously boost one’s joy-level. After ministering to the lady at the well in Samaria, Jesus declined the disciples’ offer of food with these words:
“My food”, said Jesus, “is to do the will of the One who has sent Me and to finish His work.” (John 4: 34)
Nothing compares to the joy being active part in God’s great master plan to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven! He really likes blessing people through your words and actions. Make it a goal of yours to encourage or bless at least one person every day and I promise you, you’ll experience greater realms of happiness.
The beauty is that God’s love can be shared in many different ways. Make it your goal to impact one person positively every day. This can be as simple as:
– writing an encouraging email to someone in your social network thanking them for their friendship or excellent performance
– Call someone just to tell them you were thinking of them and were wondering how they are doing
– Pay a compliment to a random stranger
– Offer to pray for someone in pain
– The list could go on and on…
“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal” – Loehr and Schwarz, The Power of Full Engagement
Jesus was highly effective and goal focused. He constantly knew where to go and what to say, because He was “led by the spirit” and only did what He saw “The Father do”. At the same time we can read of many times Jesus completely disengaged from the busyness of His ministry and left everything behind at the most random times. He knew when to step away and take care of His inner life and His face to face relationship with the Father.
My point is if even Jesus, the one whose job it was to save the world, needed to step away into loneliness every once a while to refocus how much more do we need to?
Find a spot somewhere in a park close by your office or home where you know you’ll be by yourself and go there regularly to reflect, meditate and recharge.
I pray that these 5 tips help you to live a happier and even more fulfilled life by the joy of His grace.
What are your experiences when it comes to “enjoying life”? What helps you experience divine joy, hope and happiness? I’d love o hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!