Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness

Who doesn’t want to live a satisfying life?  Humans are complex and travel many different paths in life, but everyone is looking for meaning and purpose. We spend most of our time pursuing those things that make us happy. After all we’re Americans and isn’t that what Americans do? The Declaration of Independence gives full support to our desire to be happy.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the                                    pursuit of Happiness.

 I found two internet articles on the subject of long-term happiness and the sense of well-being, which represent two sides of the same coin. The first article from the August 12, 2015 edition of The Week Magazine is entitled The Key to Sustained Happiness is Religion.  Researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands studied various social activities that people chose to pursue.  They also looked at organizations that people join. Politics, Community Involvement, Charities, Education, and Religion were the areas that received the greatest scrutiny.

The researchers discovered that every area they studied except religion led to decreased happiness over time. Only participation in a religious organization boosted happiness in the long run. The researchers said that they were puzzled by their discovery. 

The second article written by Scott Barry Kaufman on August 2, 2015 on the Scientific American Blog asks What Character Strengths are Most Predictive of Well-Being?  517 people ranging in age from 18-71 were studied to determine their positive strengths. The goal was to use this information in psychology to not just treat mental illness but to encourage people to focus on those positive strengths. Google:  Scientific American Well Being for article.

The characteristics that rose to the top in people who experienced well-being were: Gratitude, Love, Honesty, and Hope. I see a strong connection between participation in a religious organization and those characteristics. Believing in God and studying His Word with a group of like-minded believers will make us more thankful and honest. Stretching our faith muscles will develop a mindset of love and hope. 

Jesus also talked about a full and satisfying life as recorded in the Bible in John 10:10.

I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly.

Pursue happiness and a sense of well-being by investing your life in serving God and serving others. And I would love to hear from you. 

What makes you happy? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Life Without Regrets

Feeling sad or disappointed over a missed opportunity is not something any of us enjoy. We like to think we are “take charge” people who live life to the fullest. 

In the past month Charles and I have attended memorial services for two men who devoted their lives to church planting and spreading the Gospel. They lived their lives fulfilling the mission that God had given them. Their funerals were more like joyful celebrations.

Hospice nurse, Bronnie Ware is the author of the best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.  I recently saw a post from her on Facebook entitled The Top Five Regrets People Express on Their Deathbeds. She writes,

“For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home
to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to
         twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.”

Here are the five regrets she observed and paraphrased by me.

#5 – I wish I’d let myself be happier by embracing the moment and not being afraid of change.

#4 – I wish I had nurtured and maintained my relationships and not given in to the time thief that kept me from doing important things with family and friends.

#3 – I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings. I spent too much time stuffing my feelings and not speaking honestly.

#2 – I wish I had simplified my life and hadn’t worked so hard amassing possessions.

#1 – I wish I had lived a life true to myself and done more to fulfill my dreams.

When we lose our health, doing these five things is much more difficult if not impossible. I remember when I was so sick with liver disease and facing a transplant, all my energy went into surviving each day. I did have regrets and unfulfilled dreams (such as writing) and have been so thankful for a second chance to see my dreams come true.

I will add one more to the list above—one that we can do something about even when we are at the end of our life. When people are on their death beds, their minds turn to where they will spend eternity. If they are not sure of their relationship with God, that can cause a lot of anxiety and regrets. The good news is that it is never too late to find a right relationship with God. He is always waiting for us to come to Him, accept Jesus as our Savior, seek forgiveness for our sins, and experience His grace. That simple act of faith will provide the peace, joy, and love that comforts and grants life without regrets.