Can YOU be happy?

Can YOU be happy?
This article first appeared June 4, 2014
Every church has its unhappy people. People who are Debbie Downers. They don’t try to be unhappy, it just comes naturally. These are people who continually complain about their health, or complain that things were better when… Quite frequently it is something or other is not being done properly.

Being unhappy can become a bad habit that is difficult to break.

Being unhappy can become a bad habit that is difficult to break.

The unifying theme is that these people are always unhappy. Although they don’t realize it, they get comfort in making others unhappy. Research bears this out. Unhappiness is a “learned” behavior and it is contagious. So how do we break the unhappiness habit? It’s tough. It takes effort and commitment, but it is very doable. The first step to being happy is to stop being unhappy. Well duh.

When unhappiness is a habit, it becomes comfortable, like worn in slippers. People who are perpetually unhappy may experience moments of happiness, but as much as they enjoy it, it feels unnatural to them. At the first opportunity, they become unhappy again.

There can be underlying causes for unhappiness such as dysthymia or depression. Feeling down or having the blues now and then is normal, but it should not last more than a few days. There are medications and therapies for these conditions, with varying degrees of success. Anyone who is not helped by medication, or can’t get medication, they must learn techniques to fight their depression. But for the rest of us…

Be grateful to God. This step is easy to overlook. God is in control of our lives. We become discouraged when He does not direct things as we would have them. Analyze your life and see if you can see how God has been directing you. Remind yourself that your life is not over. God, who knows the number of your days, knows how much time He has to guide you to where He wants you to be. James 5:7-8.

Learn to appreciate what you have. Your life is a gift from God. Sadly, it often takes a near death experience to make us appreciate all the good things that we have. Take a moment to imagine how your loss would impact others. If you say that no one would be impacted, that the world would be better without you, stop and make an appointment with a therapist.

Stop seeing things “realistically”. Every unhappy person that I know tells me that he is not being a pessimist, he is a realist. No you’re not, you’re a pessimist. When you are in a situation that gets you down, make yourself look of the bright side. You don’t have to go all gumdrops and lollypops on us, just take a more objective look to your situation. The key to breaking the unhappiness habit is learning to replace your tendency to always see the gloom, with the ability to automatically spot the silver lining. Learn to catch your negative thought the moment that it happens and reappraise the situation. Often, all that is needed is to simply recognize your negative thoughts.

Disassociate yourself from unhappy people. Misery loves company and so does complaining. Just as it is difficult to stop smoking while hanging out with with smokers, it’s time to distance yourself from your unhappy friends and associate more with happy people. Enlist the help of friends. Tell your friends what you are trying to do and ask them to remind you whenever you are complaining. Then, don’t get mad when they do.

Find a purpose. People who work towards a goal are happier than people who do not. Clear and simple. Start simple and make it doable. In fact, start with one that is very simple like straightening out your drawer. Pay attention to the good feeling that you have when you complete it. It won’t be huge, but it will be there. Savor that feeling. Work towards more.

Find the purpose that God has for you. Learn to listen to God. Pray more. Tell God what is on your mind. Ask Him for help and learn to recognize the help that He gives you. God has plenty of work for us to do. Happiness is in finding that work and getting to it.

And finally, here’s a challenge.