In recent months I’ve taken a pretty narrow approach to the devotionals. I’ve written almost exclusively on spiritual matters. This month, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to broaden the scope and try to expose you all to other people and what they’re saying on all matters recovery. Each day I’ll give a link to an article or video and provide some brief commentary.
Article: Happiness from Finding Meaning
My thoughts: This article begins by asking an important series of questions: Is it better to be happy than not? Do bears defecate in the woods? The question is not whether happiness is a good thing. Rather, it is two-fold: To what extent is it helpful and healthy to view happiness as an end unto itself, and how best to facilitate happiness?
The pursuit of happiness, too often, is confused with the pursuit of pleasure. Pursuing pleasure above all else leads to a kind of undisciplined, unrestrained living that inevitably ends in harm done to others and a lack of spiritual depth for ourselves. Ironically, we are one of the most depressed countries in the world. I believe this has to do with the endless pursuit of pleasure and the depression that ensues when we expect to feel good all the time. If we believe it’s possible to always feel good, we can only end up depressed because, the truth is, this is not possible.
We only become faithful people of character through learning appropriate disciplines that help us reinforce our values in life. And so, it’s important how we define happiness. I would suggest that it’s the sense of peace and contentment that comes from the knowledge that we are actively pursuing our certain way of seeing. I think this article pushes a similar enough idea. Here’s an excerpt, but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing:
Many people seem to be under the impression that being spiritual means being happy. This is inaccurate. Although higher levels of spirituality can help to enhance happiness, being spiritual (in the non-religious sense) means being consciously aware. And being consciously aware is very different than being happy. Being consciously aware is about being in contact with the entirety of our experience—both positive and painful.
Happiness exists on a continuum—from overt joy and celebration to much more subtle serenity, contentment, satisfaction, and peace of mind. There are moments when we are blessed with profound joy, those precious ever-so-brief glimpses of beauty, clarity, and just how perfect life can be. However, we cannot coerce such transcendent experiences. The harder we try to make them happen, the more they will elude us. And they are always temporary. If we expect to keep them as if they were possessions, we invariably set ourselves up for serious disappointment.
If you want to be happier in ways that are more likely to endure, the most effective approach is to participate in activities that have meaning and value beyond your own self-interests. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being, life satisfaction, and, yes, happiness.