What Makes You Happy?

Happiness has less to do with what we have or accomplish and more to do with what we value.   In the July 2008 Reader’s Digest, Arthur Brooks’ article “Why We’re Happy” explains as  Mr. Brooks states, “I had always thought that marching to the beat of my own drummer and making my own values as I went along were the right things to do, and that traditional values, to put it bluntly, were for” the gullible. “Turns out I was in for some surprises.”[1]

It seems Mr. Brooks reviewed the results of hundreds of surveys of thousands of people across the land to find out what characteristics most people felt made them happy.  Here are the happiness predictors he says we can learn from these surveys:

Happiness Predictor 1: Faith

Faith is a common value connecting happy those surveyed.  Almost 85% of respondants identify with some type of religious group and those who attend worship regularly were happier than those who rarely or never attend worship.

Happiness Predictor 2: Work

Most Americans indicated that even if they were to suddenly become wealthy, they would still continue to work.  Why?  Most people really do like their jobs.  Almost 95% of people who were happy in their lives were also happy in their jobs.  While this certainly is not true for every person, working does seem to bring about some satisfaction in people’s lives.

Happiness Predictor 3: Marriage and Family

Almost half of married adults report that they are very happy compared with less that one fourth of never married adults.  Evidently family is as characteristic of a lifestyle of happiness that includes religion and marriage.

Happiness Predictor 4:  Charity

According to the article, “People who give money to charity are 43% more likely than non-givers to say they’re very happy. Volunteers are 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers.”

Happiness Predictor 5: Freedom

This is a more complicated characteristic.  While economic, political, and religious freedoms bring people much happiness, having no constraints on moral freedoms does not.  The article states that, “People who feel they have unlimited moral choices in their lives when it comes to matters of sex or drugs, for example, tend to be unhappier than those who do not feel they have so many choices in life.”[2]

The article concludes by reminding us values – not things – matter most.

Isn’t this what God has revealed to us through His word?  Faith in God, service to Him, and fellowship with the saints will bring happiness.  Being productive in our work and home life will bring happiness.  Giving to others and doing for others will bring happiness. Having freedom, but freedom within the guidelines God has set for us, will bring happiness.

As a matter of reference, the Preacher, son of David, spent years trying different things that purported to bring happiness.  He begins saying, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl 1:2 – ESV). He concludes ten chapters later saying, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13- ESV). We would do well to read what God revealed about happiness long, long ago.

Well?  What makes you happy?

[1] Arthur C. Brooks, “Why We’re Happy.” Reader’s Digest. July 2008. p. 164.

[2] ibid. p. 168.

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