The Happiness Track

Today is Saturday. Yes, I did post yesterday that I’ll be posting a Dennis’ Reader’s Diary article only once a week [note to Philippine Theo Law Gee readers: I originally posted this on my FB page]; but on Saturday mornings I usually do nothing but read (unless I have a class to teach), and today – Saturday – I finished reading Emma Seppala’s The Happiness Track, and I just have this urge to share what I’ve learned from this very good book, which I’m now recommending to all of you. Here are some of the ideas I got from this book:

– A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

– Your fatigue is mostly psychological.

– Keep calm and carry on.

– Imagination is more important than knowledge.

– Walking boosts creativity.

– The more creative you become, the more joy you invite into your life.

– Believe in efforts, not strengths.

– “Failure is success in progress.” (Einstein)

– Our beliefs largely determine whether we learn new skills.

– The experience, succeed or fail, is a form of success in itself.

– Gratitude balances our negativity bias.

– Writing about your emotions can help regulate them.

– Selfishness prevents success.

– Excessive positive regard can make you blind to your own weaknesses.

– If you are unkind to someone, they are likely to reciprocate.

– Self-focus damages physical and emotional health.

I found much of what the book has to say quite helpful and I’m glad I read it. But what I found interesting is that a lot of what it says coincides with the Bible’s teaching, especially the last chapter on “Why Compassion Serves You Better Than Self- Interest.” Seppala says, “[E]xcessive self-esteem can be harmful because it usually entails comparing yourself to others. Psychologists call this the ‘better than average effect’ …” She goes on to say, “While self-focus is associated with poor outcomes on both personal and professional levels, focusing on other people – that is, other-focus, especially in the form of compassion – leads to tremendous benefits.”

More than 1500 years ago, however, the Apostle Paul already wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV)

The Happiness Track is a good book. I’m happy to recommend it. But a much greater book is the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Nothing beats what it has to teach about true happiness: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Gratitude

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”(Psalm 116:12)

Here is the right motivation for living a productive life: gratitude for the life we’ve been given and the blessings we’ve received. I remember reading somewhere that life is God’s gift to us, and what we make out of it is our gift back to God. Thus, I respectfully beg to disagree with Kiyosaki (see my previous post, A Little Greed) when he says that a little greed is the cure for laziness. Gratitude, not greed, is what should motivate us to better ourselves. Psalm 103 lists down some of these tremendous benefits which we have freely received from our Maker: “He forgives all my sins, he heals all my diseases, he redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Interestingly, according to Emma Seppalla, Ph.D. (Science Director of Stanford’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education), in her book The Happiness Track, “Research supports the idea that gratitude has tremendous benefits; gratitude not only boosts your well-being but also significantly strengthen professional skills.” Some of these benefits are the following:

Greater psychological well-being and health:
– improved positive emotion
– longer-lasting positive emotion
– buffering against stress and negativity
– decreased anxiety and depression
– reduced materialism
– improved sleep quality and duration

Improved professional skills:
– higher social intelligence
– improved relationships
– likability
– strengthened willpower
– better long-term decision making
– increased positive influence on others

Gratitude for benefits received benefits us spiritually, psychologically, and professionally! This sheds new light on the verse which says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) God has our well-being in mind when he commands us to be always thankful.

unsplash-logoSimon Maage