The Recipe for True Happiness
A GOOD recipe and a good cook make for a good meal! In a way, it is similar with happiness. It is not the result of a single factor, but many things in life come together to produce happiness. These include work, play, time with family and friends, and spiritual activities. But there are also more subtle factors, such as attitudes, desires, and goals in life.
Thankfully, we do not have to figure out the recipe for true happiness by ourselves. Why not? Because our Creator has given us a wonderful book of instruction, the Bible, which is now available in whole or in part in 2,377 languages and dialects—far more than any other publication in the world!
This impressive circulation reflects God’s concern for the happiness and spiritual welfare of all people. (Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26, 27) “I . . . am . . . the One teaching you to benefit yourself,” God says. If we heed his commandments, then he promises us tranquillity and peace, “just like a river.”—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
That promise calls to mind the words of Jesus that were quoted in the preceding article: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) The spirituality mentioned here is not superficial piety. Rather, it influences our life as a whole. It reflects our willingness to listen to and be taught by God because we recognize that he knows us much better than we know ourselves. “What convinces me more than anything else that the Bible is from God,” says Errol, a Bible student for over 50 years, “is that when you apply its teachings, they work!” Consider, for example, the Bible’s excellent counsel on matters such as the pursuit of riches and pleasures.
Wise Guidance Regarding Money
“Even when a person has an abundance,” Jesus said, “his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Yes, your true value as a person, especially in God’s eyes, has nothing to do with the size of your bank account. In fact, the pursuit of wealth often adds anxieties, which sap the joy out of life and steal time from more important pursuits.—Mark 10:25; 1 Timothy 6:10.
According to Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology in the United States, the more people seek satisfaction in material things, the less they find it there. The Bible writer Solomon put it this way: “The man who loves money can never have enough, and the man who is in love with great wealth enjoys no return from it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, The New English Bible) The situation might be compared to the itch produced by a mosquito bite—the more you scratch it, the more it itches, until it becomes an open sore.
The Bible encourages us to work hard and to enjoy the fruits of our labor. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) By doing so, we increase our self-respect—another vital ingredient in happiness. We may also be able to enjoy some of life’s wholesome pleasures. There is a difference, however, between enjoying some of the good things money offers and making the pursuit of riches the focus of our life.
Pleasures Have Their Place
A spiritual outlook on life helps us to gain the greatest benefit from recreation, entertainment, and other pleasures. Jesus enjoyed pleasurable occasions that included food and drink. (Luke 5:29; John 2:1-10) But these things were by no means the prime source of his joy in life. Rather, he found the greatest delight in spiritual pursuits, which included helping others to learn about God and his purpose for humankind.—John 4:34.
King Solomon experimented with pleasures to see if they held the secret to happiness. “I will plunge into pleasures and enjoy myself,” he said. This wealthy king did not wade into them timidly. No, he dived into pleasures! Yet, how did he feel afterward? “This too was emptiness,” he wrote.—Ecclesiastes 2:1, New English Bible.
Empty and unfulfilled—that is how pleasure-seekers usually feel. In fact, when researchers compared the pursuit of pleasures with such things as meaningful work, spiritual activities, and involvement with family, they found that pleasure-seeking rated as the least consequential factor in their subjects’ overall happiness.
Be Generous and Thankful
Instead of being self-centered, happy people tend to be generous and interested in others. “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving,” said Jesus. (Acts 20:35) Besides giving in a material way, we can give of our time and energy, which may be even more appreciated, especially in the family. Husbands and wives need to spend time together to keep their marriage strong and happy, and parents need to make ample time for their children, talking with them, showing them affection, and teaching them. When family members give in such ways, they thrive and their home becomes a haven of happiness.
Conversely, when others give to you—whether of themselves or in some other way—do you ‘show yourself thankful’? (Colossians 3:15) Living by those three words can make a world of difference in our relationships with others and can greatly add to our own joy. When someone expresses heartfelt gratitude to you, doesn’t your heart glow with warmth?
Showing gratitude also raises our awareness of the good things that happen to us. In a controlled experiment, a researcher at the University of California at Riverside, U.S.A., asked her subjects to keep a “gratitude journal”—a diary of things for which they were thankful. It comes as no surprise that over a period of six weeks, the subjects felt noticeably more satisfied with life.
The lesson? No matter what your situation, learn to count your blessings. In fact, the Bible urges you to do so, saying: “Always be rejoicing. . . . In connection with everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18) In order to do that, of course, we need to make a conscious effort to recall the good things we experience. Why not make that a personal goal?
Love and Hope—Essential for Happiness
It has rightly been said that from the cradle to the grave, humans need love. Without it, people pine away. But what exactly is love? Although the word is used loosely nowadays, the Bible beautifully describes it: “Love is long-suffering and kind,” it says. “Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
How unselfish true love is! Because it “does not look for its own interests,” it places the happiness of others ahead of self. Sadly, such love is becoming increasingly rare. In fact, in his great prophecy about the end of the present system of things, Jesus said that “the love of the greater number [would] cool off.”—Matthew 24:3, 12; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
This situation, however, will not go on forever, for it is an affront to the Creator—the very personification of love! (1 John 4:8) Soon God will rid the earth of all people who are filled with hatred or who are governed by greed. He will preserve alive only those who strive to cultivate the love described above. As a result, peace and happiness will reign earth wide. The Bible promise is sure to be fulfilled: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:10, 11.
Imagine having every day filled with “exquisite delight”! Is it any wonder that the Bible says: “Rejoice in the hope”? (Romans 12:12) Would you like to learn more about the wonderful hope that God holds out for obedient mankind? Then please read the following article.
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“There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35
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Success Stories—How True?
Occasionally we hear anecdotal accounts about individuals who grew up in troubled homes but fought against all odds and became very wealthy. “Such stories are sometimes cited as evidence that they made the best of a bad thing, turning out well despite or because of their unhappy childhoods,” explains a report on happiness in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The problem with this interpretation, according to research, is that they may not have turned out so well after all. They just turned out wealthy.”
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Happiness Fosters Good Health
A happy disposition is good medicine. “Happiness or related mental states like hopefulness, optimism and contentment appear to reduce the risk or limit the severity of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds and upper-respiratory infections,” says a report in Time magazine. Furthermore, a Dutch study of elderly patients revealed that over a nine-year period, a happy, positive disposition reduced the risk of death by an amazing 50 percent!
How mental states affect the body remains unclear. Research has shown, however, that positive, optimistic people have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to suppress the immune system.
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Just as following a good recipe can produce delicious food, so following divine guidance can result in happiness