3 Simple Ways to Find Happiness
(as Taught by Religion and Backed by Science)
If there’s anything we all want, it’s to be happy. But how do we get it? As it turns out, the Judeo-Christian moral code is not only the key to living the right kind of life, but also the key to happiness. Even science says so.
Here are three examples:
1) BE GRATEFUL
The Ten Commandments not only provide a basic moral code for Judeo-Christians to follow, but also keys to happiness. While we could take a whole blog to break down every Commandment, here we’ll just focus on the Ninth and Tenth Commandments: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods, respectively.
To covet something is to yearn to possess or have that object without due regard for the rights of others.
If I constantly covet my friend’s iPad, car, or made-for-Instagram relationship, my focus is on everything I don’t have rather than on all the blessings God has given me. When I do that, I leave no room in my life for gratitude.
And, you guessed it—practicing gratitude makes you happy.
Studies show that people who practice gratitude are healthier, happier, and have better relationships! They engage more fully with the world around them because they are aware of all their blessings and are grateful for them. They don’t waste their time and energy wanting what someone else has—they practice gratitude for everything they already have, from the biggest successes to the smallest, simplest pleasures.
In Matthew 6:9-13, when Jesus gives us the Our Father, he follows it up with a pretty powerful clarifying statement: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is not optional.
And while it can sometimes be hard to forgive others or even ourselves, there’s no doubt that forgiveness leads to happiness.
Research finds that forgiving others leads to “reduced anxiety, depression, and major psychiatric disorders, as well as […] fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates. […] Forgiveness can also help rebuild self-esteem.”
3) BE GENEROUS
There are many instances in scripture where we’re reminded to be generous to those in need:
- Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord, who will pay back the sum in full.”
- Luke 3:11 – “Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’”
- James 2:15-16 – “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?”
And ¶2444 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The Church’s love for the poor … is a part of her constant tradition.”
Multiple studies find that despite the personal cost—the sacrifice of time, resources, or money—people who do good may reap more benefits than those who receive the generosity. Not only do altruistic people experience higher rates of gratitude, contentment, happiness, and satisfaction, but some studies suggest they may actually live longer than those who don’t do altruistic activities. Some researchers even believe that doctors need to start recommending generosity and volunteerism along with diet and exercise to increase length of life!
These positive effects were seen even when people decided they would be just a little bit generous! They didn’t have to do grand acts of service or give away their entire paycheck to feel the benefits of living generously.
Be Happy Today
If you want to be happier, try these three practices—gratitude, forgiveness, or generosity. The requests God makes of us are not just for the benefit of the world, but for each of us individually. He really does want to see us happy and whole.
Which of these three practices will you implement in your life today?
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Deacon Rick Medina is the Former Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and for years oversaw the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.