Did you know that happiness is 50% genetic? That’s what David Lykken’s research shows. That means that what we do with the other half is up to us. Psychologists say that the other half has a lot to do with determination. So I guess Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, "Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
So if we’re as happy as we want to be, I guess it’s important to know some of the things that lead to happiness. Like money right? Wrong – unless it lifts you out of poverty and then it helps, but only for a while. And it doesn’t come from drugs, prescription or otherwise, but you probably already knew that.
But here’s something interesting. "Flow" is an important part of experiencing happiness. Now I knew that before they did the research. I’ve experienced flow. You know that feeling you get when you’re involved in something creative? Or maybe you get it when you’re playing or doing something because you want to not because you have to – that’s flow. Research shows that athletes, musicians, writers, gamers, and (of course) religious adherents understand this feeling. It’s not about what you’re doing – it’s about how you do it.
So all of us Christ followers – we ought to know something about flow. But do we? Do you?
Here’s another news flash. Happiness, or as Sonja Lyubormirsky of UC Riverside calls it, "a more satisfying and meaningful life," involves cultivating a sense of gratitude, practicing random acts of kindness, forgiving your enemies, paying attention to life’s small pleasures, attending to your health, practicing positive thinking, and investing time and energy in friendship and family. And how about the research that shows that people who are grateful, optimistic, and forgiving have better experiences with their lives, more happiness, and fewer strokes.
If all this is true, we Christ followers ought to have a corner on the market when it comes to happiness. But do we? Do you?
Freud said that unhappiness is the default condition for human beings because it doesn’t take as much effort to be unhappy as it takes to be happy. We all know that if you want something to complain about, you usually don’t have to look too hard to find it. Sadly this is particularly true in the church.
But why? Why should it be that way within the very body whose foundation is Jesus Christ – the one who came proclaiming love, forgiveness, kindness, simplicity, wholeness, hope, thanksgiving, and all those other things that research now tells us leads to happiness? Are we destined to always take the path of least resistance and be unhappy by default? What do you think?