Happiness: A Key or a Principle

keyHe’s no locksmith, but Michael Porter thinks he has discovered an important key—the key to happiness. Porter, a Harvard economist, has been researching social process and how to measure it.

Through his research, Porter has found the key to a person’s happiness is the opportunity to change and better one’s life:  Porter’s research suggests this “is a crucial but elusive ingredient to a smoothly functioning society—or what, at the individual level, one might call happiness (Quartz).”

Another researcher, Dr. Stephen Post, has studied the different components of happiness for several years.  He believes the key to genuine happiness is found in living the Golden Rule.

When you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, there’s a good chance that you’re a person who volunteers to help those in need. The willingness to help others can enhance your sense of well-being.

A study found that 41% of people who volunteer an average of 100 hours a year report a greater sense of well-being, saying that volunteering

  • 68%: “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92%: “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 73%: “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96%: “makes people happier,”
  • 77%: “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% also reported that volunteering helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

In his, It’s Good To Be Good, research, Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

The key research by Porter and Post simply validates the principle posited by Jesus over a thousand years ago:  Treat others the same way you want them to treat, and you both will be blessed.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve

A Circle of Friends

friendThe presumed benefits of friendship have been the focus of many self-help books and the authors have suggested that healthy friendships are a key metric to measure happiness; boost your physical and mental health; and, they may even extend your life.

A group of researchers from the University of Oxford decided to test the value of friendships, and their research has yielded some interesting results:

  • The research suggests that people with a large circle of friends have a higher pain tolerance.
  • The social interactions you have with your friends triggers the release of endorphins that are conducive to positive emotions.
  • Endorphins generate a strong pain-killing effect that’s stronger than morphine.

Which is of more value: Facebook posts or face-to-face interactions?  Katerina Johnson, co-author of the study, has said: “In this digital era, deficiencies in our social interactions may be one of the overlooked factors contributing to the declining health of our modern society.”

Even though, he didn’t make his conclusion based on a questionnaire, Solomon knew the value of a good friend:

  • Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 27:17: In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.

I’m not sure who Aristotle had in mind when he said, “The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.” I do, however, know that his words remind me of something Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:12-15).”

Ragged Genes

genesSilly me, I thought the Washington Post article, “Cheating May Be in Your Genes” was speaking of unfairly playing a game.  You know, bending the rules to get an advantage; however, the focus is on cheating as in having an affair.  I guess that sounds a little nicer than calling it adultery or breaking one of the 10 Commandments.

According to research done by Brendan Zietsch at the University of Queensland in Australia, “an individual’s genetic makeup in general influences how likely he or she is to cheat.” The researchers at Queensland could have saved themselves a lot of time and money.  The answer to their hypothesis is in the Bible.  Ever since Adam and Eve messed things up in the Garden of Eden, 100% of men and women have been struggling with their desires and emotions.

Whenever a person, like these researchers, overlooks the obvious, I remember my old friend Ted and how he expressed his frustration.  His language in such instances was so razor sharp and electrifying he left the recipient of his diatribe shockingly bewildered.  His language was so colorful, it would make your teeter, totter.

My language won’t be nearly as graphic, but I will state the simple truth:  Your nasty sin nature wants you to wallow in the pig pen of life.  It lies to you, and tells you it’s okay to cheat, swindle, steal, and do whatever you feel like doing.  It’s the author of the bestseller: If It Feels Good, Do It.

Here’s a little secret:  It doesn’t make any difference whether you call it your genetic makeup, your DNA, or your sinful nature, you’re still responsible for your actions; and, there are consequences to your behavior.  Sin will always takes you farther than you want to go; it always promises more than it gives and, it always costs more than you want to pay.

It’s time to dial down the static noise and be emphatic about the truth:

  • When you cheat, you rob yourself of your character.
  • When you lie, you exist in a delusional environment.
  • When you steal, you rob yourself of your integrity.

If you will ask yourself these questions, they will help you temper your temptation:

  • Is 15 minutes of pleasure worth risking an eternity of joy?
  • Is the self-soothing value of false pretense worth losing the value of a good name?
  • Can I find genuine satisfaction and fulfilment in stealing something that belongs to another person?

Fortunately failure is not final, and you can learn this from the example of the Prodigal Son.  He was starving and stuffing “himself with the food the pigs were eating.  When he came to his senses he said, My father’s servants have more food than they can eat and here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go back to my father .’”

When you come to your senses, you can come back to your Father—He still loves you.

Sesame Street: LINK 46 and Learning

MuppetsOfSesameStreet2Before the proliferation of TV channels on cable TV, many American households played with rabbit ears to focus the image on their television sets.  In 1969, an educational program geared towards children was launched, and the characters of Sesame Street became friends to many children.

Because some children lived in areas where the broadcast signal could not be reached, a research project was also born.  In a study by Melissa Kearney (University of Maryland) and Phillip Levine (Wellesley College) it was discovered that children who watched the show are less likely to get behind at school and more likely to attend class at their appropriate age level.

Kearney and Levine believe Sesame Street has been proven to be more than just a key link in the field of academics.  They also assert it as a beneficial aid to family support, medical and dental health, and the development of emotional skills.

The key point of the study was the difference between children who could receive the signal as those who could not.  Receiving the signal was proven to be helpful.

The same is true for you, if you receive  LINK 46 which is based on Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Notice the acrostic below:

  • Listen: Read the Psalm and focus your mind on God:  Relax, and recognize His presence.
  • Inquire: Be curious about the verbs:  Am I to obey a principle; claim a promise; or am I to share a truth?
  • Note: Keep a notebook and pen handy, so you can write down the thoughts or names that come to your mind.
  • Know: Think about God’s goodness, grace and mercy, and then be honest with Him in regard to your aches, pains, and desires.

Paul said: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).” LINK 46 allows you to hear God as He speaks to you and as you speak to Him.

What part of today will you take to “be still” so you can LINK-up with God and get to know Him?