I came across this article that summarizes recent developments in positive psychology research into a list of 21 habits happy people cultivate. Taken individually, each item has been shown to empirically boost our baseline happiness level a bit. But as I looked at the list, it occurred to me what a powerful effect cultivating even a handful of these habits into one’s everyday life would have. They are all so simple. Most interesting to me is the consistent finding that the happiest people are not the ones who pursue pleasure but the ones who pursue a meaningful and engaged life of connection and service to others. Sound familiar?
Or as the article puts it….
After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.
As I describe in my book, The Life God Wants You to Have: Discovering the Divine Plan when Human Plans Fail, one can be happy (in the sense of being content, confident, purposeful, and connected to others) even in the face of hardship if one looks for ways to pursue meaningfulness (using your gifts to improve both your life and the lives of others), intimacy (pursuing deeper and healthier relationship), and virtue (using the events of life to become a better, stronger person). Even if it is impossible to resolve the problems one is facing in the short term, pursuing meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue in the moment makes you happier and more hopeful.
What positive psychologists call, “Authentic Happiness” (defined above as the pursuit of meaning and engagement), what (I would argue) Christians call Joy, is an important part of the Christian walk. One of the best ways to evangelize the world is to let our faith motivate us to intentionally cultivate the “little ways” of connection and meaning that lead to true happiness–and, while we’re at it, holiness too. Take a look at this list of the 21 Habits of Supremely Happy People and see which of these little behaviors you’d like to cultivate to be a happier person and a better witness to hope.