Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Be Happy

Some time back I heard Tony Campolo talk about generational differences. He said that when he was a child, his parents wanted him to grow up to be successful. Most parents now would say they want their children to grow up to be happy. I would guess the reason is that as a culture we have discovered that happiness is much more illusive a goal than success and that when one is happy, they are by definition successful but the converse may not be true.

I'm struck though that our culture works against genuine happiness. Wired UK reports on Nic Marks' talk at TED 2010 regarding happiness. Wired reports Marks give the following 5 strategies for finding happiness...
1. Connect
Invest your time in your loved ones, in your friends, family and acquaintances. Meet people. Talk to them. Understand how they improve your life, and also how you improve theirs. Knowing that you mean something to someone can be one of the most powerful positive forces in the world.

2. Be active
When exercising, the level of serotonin in your body rises and you get a powerful feeling of wellbeing. Something as simple as kicking a ball or throwing a Frisbee around a garden with a friend can knock both this and the previous point off in one go. If you're feeling down, go for a brisk walk and get some air. You'll soon feel better.

3. Take notice
Keeping an eye on what's going on around you keeps your brain running smoothly. If you see an application for planning permission pinned to a lamp-post, and even the tiniest part of your brain wants to know what it says, then go and read it. On a train or bus, rather than burying your nose in a book or your mobile phone, look out of the window and see what's happening outside.

4. Keep learning
Humanity's relentless curiosity is behind almost every single one of our species' accomplishments. Once you've finished your formal education, that's no reason not to stop learning. Actively seek out different viewpoints, and if you don't understand them then find someone knowledgeable to explain them to you.

5. Give
Finally, be generous. A survey gave £100 to two groups of people, instructing one group to spend it on themselves, and another to spend it on other people. Afterwards, the latter group's spirits were significantly higher. If you don't have cash, give your time, your attention or your expertise instead.

I'm struck that Marks' 5 strategies to find happiness are counter-cultural at their core. Our hectic lives keep us from 4 of 5 of the goals. Number 5 stands in stark opposition to a cultural worldview of scarcity where accumulation is the first goal. I'm struck that the church is a perfect place to nurture these strategies. Most of all, I'm reminded that I can choose to be happy and to work towards attaining happiness.

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