20 Ways to Improve Your Happiness

We live in a time—despite all the advancements—when so many feel lonely, angry, anxious, and depressed. Many people are simply not happy, let alone joyful. I admit, I have experienced bouts of depression. The following list, although won’t cure a person of unhappiness, are of great help in maintaining a measure of happiness. 

  1. Be grateful. Many of us have far more than we realize, and sadly, we live in a day when many feel they are “entitled” to having things. However, the reality is we are to work and contribute to society. Furthermore, the world is unfair. Some have more, whether money and/or opportunities. Still, many of us have more than others. Learn to be grateful for the job, schooling, food, health, etc. you do have.
  2. Help others. It is true that some people suffer more than others, but no one goes through life without experiencing some form of pain, loneliness, loss, heartache, fear, etc. Take time to visit the lonely at an elderly care center, minister to the poor at a food shelter, or help out at a youth program. You just might find that as you help others, you are helped in return.
  3. Forgive. Perhaps nothing else impales one’s own soul as a sword than that of bitterness and the refusal to forgive. Strangely, forgiveness has little to do with perpetrators but with the wounded. One does not forgive for the sake of the offender but for one’s own sake. To forgive is not that the offender is set free, but allowing one’s own self to heal and be set free. If you refuse to forgive, the one you’ll torment is yourself. Your bitterness and unhappiness will only deepen and tighten until you are willing to forgive.
  4. Appreciate the “little” things. Take the time to “smell the roses.” There are many blessings we receive that have no monetary value but can so enrich our lives if we take the time to appreciate them. For example, a cup of coffee in the morning, a warm shower, shared laughter with a friend, an encouraging word, a warm smile from a stranger, a door held open as a kind gesture, the love of dog, a beautiful morning, etc. Appreciating the “little” things will do wonders.
  5. Don’t surrender to fear. Each of us experience fear from time to time; however, there are those who are afraid every day. They trust no one, they’re afraid of catching Covid, they’re afraid of the future, they’re afraid of running out of money, they’re afraid of dying, etc. Such fears torment them daily. So tormented are they of what could, but unlikely will, happen that they can’t enjoy the present. Jesus tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:33-34).
  6. Smile and laugh more. There are those who take life so seriously they’ve forgotten how to laugh. There are some Christians who seem to think it’s a sin to laugh and find enjoyment. Granted, there is a time to weep and a time to be serious. But there are also times to laugh and experience festivity. Enjoy the laughter and silliness of friends, the birth of a child, marriages of friends, and baptisms of others. These, too, are gifts from God to be received with thanksgiving.
  7. Extend and receive kindness and respect. One of my pet peeves os people who have no problem treating others like dirt but expect to be treated with respect. Learn to treat others with kindness and respect. So what if they’re a doctor or janitor, a man or woman, an adult or child, black or white, rich or poor, religious or non-religious? Treat everyone as persons who are created in the likeness of their Creator. For that is what each of us is, nothing more and certainly nothing less.
  8. Learn to be content. This is a difficult one that takes time—learning to be content no matter one’s situation. The apostle Paul writes, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
  9. Trust God’s promises. The Bible does not promise things will always go our way, but tells us to expect difficult times. After all, we live in a fallen world. Still, for the redeemed who truly love God, He gives this promise: “for those who love God all things work together for good, good day for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
  10. Delight in God. The psalmist doesn’t deny the the fact that the wicked often prosper, etc, but he also warns against being envious of them for their time of judgment will come. Instead, he says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). The things our hearts truly long for the things of this world cannot satisfy.
  11. Let go of your hurts (don’t live as a victim). There are some who forever nurse their hurts and hardships, constantly blaming others for their misery. This is not to say the hurts or past injustices are not real, but persons refuse to move on, to heal, to stop blaming. Instead, they live life as a victim rather than striving to become a conqueror. To do so requires work, but it can be done. Having a victim mentality will only perpetuate unhappiness.
  12. Stop criticizing yourself. Learn to accept yourself. Stop calling yourself stupid, ugly, clumsy, worthless, and unlovable. Each of us have faults and weaknesses, but we also have strengths and skills uniquely given by God. Paul says we are like members of a body, some applauded others hidden, some attractive some less attractive—but each is vital. (see 1 Cor. 12:12-26). Excel as the person God created you to be.
  13. Let go of the past. There are those who are so stuck in the past they cannot enjoy the present. For some, it’s because of abuse, while for others it’s because the past was their glory days. Let go of the past. No, you might not ever forget it, but learn to be present in the present. Glory in the blessings of the moment. Allow yourself to heal. Become someone’s hero today, even if you don’t hear an applause.
  14. Don’t let regrets define your future. Many of us have regrets and have done things we’re now ashamed of. Much of life is learned through trials, errors, and hard knocks. But these should help us to learn, grow, and improve. No, we’re not who or what we had hoped to be or hope to become. Paul, writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
  15. Understand that you are not a mistake. No matter your situation, failures, guilt, or shame, you are no accident. In Christ, there is complete redemption for those who genuinely desire it and receive it by faith. The psalmist writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). And we read in Acts, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (17:26-27). We find our greatest joy when we know Him and understand our purpose and being.
  16. Don’t be so easily offended by differing opinions. Some people allow their whole worlds to be unraveled because others have differing views and opinions. Why? And just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a bigot, xenophobe, or any other kind of (?)-phobe. Even if they are, so what? So many are busy starting fires or adding fuel to them. Again, why? While there is a time to speak up, there is also a time to hold your peace. Knowing the difference requires wisdom. There is a peace that can come when one minds his own business and allows others to have a completely different view.
  17. Quit complaining. Most people complain from time to time, but some people complain all the time, like a Goldilocks who never finds a “just right.” The weather is either too hot or too cold. The atmosphere in a restaurant is too loud, the food is either over or undercooked, the waitress is too slow, the menu is too expensive, etc. There is always something to diminish the beauty of anything. Complainers lack both gratitude and appreciation. Complainers miss the 97% of positivity because they are fixated on the 3% negativity. If you want to improve your happiness, quit complaining about everything. 
  18. Get some sunlight. There are numerous benefits of sunlight, but one is it helps boost the body’s release of serotonin, which helps a person’s mood.
  19. Exercise. This should be a no-brained, but exercise is good for a person physically and mentally. It doesn’t need to be strenuous, just going out for a walk and getting some fresh air is good for the spirit.
  20. Turn off the news and social media. Last but not least, for goodness’ sake, turn off the news and social media. Rarely are politicians honest, and celebrities are not the gods and goddesses they think themselves to be. Furthermore, not everyone is fighting like piranhas in a frenzy. Not everyone is a criminal. Most people’s lives are not picture perfect, and there is still a lot of beauty and kindness in the world. 

Life is filled with trials and pain, but in and through Christ even these can be redeemed and be seeds to later joy. Again, this list is not a cure for unhappiness; however, if you look beyond yourself and put these things into practice, then you will find a measure of genuine happiness and joy. Do these and refuse to be a victim of your own unhappiness.

Heaven (Part 2): The Beautiful City of Holiness

While a measure of rest can be had in this life, the true rest is in the life to come—heaven. What does the Bible say about heaven?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:2-4

Heaven will be a beautiful place, like a stunning, breathtaking bride!There will be no suffering, crying, or death. There will no longer be feelings of distance or disconnect from God. There will be no violence, betrayal, corruption, or oppression. There will not be racism. In fact, we are told,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

Heaven (Part 1): The Christian’s Longing

The world mocks the concept of sin; nevertheless, we see and experience its ravaging effects through violence, crime, addictions, betrayal, heartache, loneliness, weariness, sickness, suffering, and ultimately, death.

Life can be very dark and wearisome—even for the people of God. The Scriptures are neither shy nor vague about this. Jesus says,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Paul writes:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

Even the people of God can grow weary and discouraged. The author of Hebrews writes to such individuals:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ~ Hebrews 10:35-36

The Illusionary Reality of Feelings

The French philosopher, Rene Descartes, once said, “I think, therefore I am.” There is truth to this, as his point is that his existence is proven by the fact that he could think and reason. One could not do so if he did not exist. Such logic is indisputable.

An error many of us make is thinking, “I feel, therefore it is.” That is, the way I feel necessarily reflects reality. However, our feelings truly have an illusionary factor that can be destructively deceptive if we are not careful. This is not to say our feelings are always wrong; nevertheless, our feelings are not always correct in interpreting reality. Mind you, the feelings themselves are very real, but the thoughts that lead to our feelings are not always truthful. Thus, our feelings can project an illusionary reality that is not real or correlating with the truth.

Consider whenever someone stubs his toes on furniture, the pain he feels corresponds to reality. This is no illusion, as anyone can attest who has ever stubbed a toe! Or whenever someone loses a person or pet she loves very much, the loss and accompanying emotional pain is connected to the reality of loss and grief; therefore, the pain is related to a legitimate loss. But what about when a person feels alone, unloved, hopeless, anxious, or worthless? While the feelings are quite real, do they (and the thoughts that fuel them) necessarily correlate appropriately with reality? Mind you, this is not to say that one’s illusionary reality does not contain any truth. However, our minds and emotions can work together like a biased news team, focusing on certain aspects, while jettisoning a lot of facts.

Our minds and emotions are incredibly powerful entities. This is strange, considering both are entirely non-material—seemingly non-existent; after all, neither can be handled, seen, or smelled. Neither are made up of molecules; nevertheless, these seemingly non-existent entities have the potential of erecting and enslaving persons within self-made prisons and hells. Beginning with a thought (often triggered from a hurt within actual reality: for example, an unkind word, rejection, ridicule, abuse, etc), this thought then becomes like a board. This (negative) thought is followed by another, and another—until a structure is formed. Eventually “walls” are built, with the intention of protecting; however, they actually end up becoming one’s imprisonment. While our intention is to protect ourselves, too often we isolate ourselves. In doing so, we tend to condemn ourselves, others, life, and even God Himself. The projected illusion then swallows everything that makes life meaningful—including any purposes for the legitimate pain and disappointments in life.

By nature, I have a melancholy temperament. I am introverted, analytical, conscientious, moody, and introspective. To say the least, I am not the life of a party. At a large gathering I tend to feel awkward, restless, and bored. Awkward, because I desire to fit in. Restless, because I feel as if I do not fit in. Bored, because I am too afraid to “let my hair down” and force myself to interact with those around me (for fear of rejection or appearing foolish). So my mind and emotions conspire against me. Negative thoughts (for example, “I do not fit in” or “no one wants to talk to me”) trigger negative feelings of rejection and isolation. The projected illusion is that I am isolated, rejected, and unwanted. But is this actual reality? My mind and emotions say it is, but the true reality is I am surrounded by people, in many cases persons who are friends and family who love and care about me very much.

Several years ago I resigned from a pastoral position. My family and I were betrayed and deeply wounded by some individuals. Within a month of my resignation my dad died, then several months later my mother-in-law passed. Within the next couple of years my wife and I had several family members and friends pass. Our family had to put one of our dogs down prematurely. This broke my heart in a way I had never quite experienced before. I earned my Master’s degree, but doors were not opening. During this time I felt like a failure as a minister, husband, father, friend—as a person. I felt abandoned by God. I felt as if I was a total disappointment to Him. My thoughts condemned and criticized me ruthlessly, and my feelings projected an illusion as though my mind was presenting truth. My mind and feelings equated my worth and identity with my sense of failure and abandonment.

The illusionary reality was that I was unloved by my family, friends, and God; that I was not needed, and this world would not be missing anything if I was dead. I felt extremely alone, disconnected, and trapped inside a deep, dark pit. This was the illusionary reality. But what was the actual reality? The actual reality was that I was depressed, hurting, and grieving. Although my wife and son were upset and hurt by my angry outbursts, they still loved me. While there were certain persons who, I believe, did forsake me, my family and true friends never did. Furthermore, when the light finally pierced my darkness, I realized God had not gone anywhere, but had been with me and lovingly watching over me the whole time. I did not stand condemned, but my salvation in Jesus Christ remained secure by what had secured it from the beginning—His grace and shed blood. The actual reality is faith, hope, and love had never evaporated, but continued to remain. I felt like I hated life, but in actuality it was the feelings of loneliness and inner turmoil that I hated.

But what about the projection of the world not needing me (or you, if your mind and emotions ever project this)? Most of us will not ever be called “world changers” or be remembered hundreds of years from now in history books. Yet, God places us where we are. The love (or hate) we share, and the choices we make affect those around us. We will have some who like us and others who hate us. We will be rejected by some, while others will admire us. While we will not see it, and might not be remembered for it, we never know how God will use our words and actions to influence another, who will then influence another, etc. With all this said, regardless of the illusionary reality my mind and emotions project, the actual reality is I am needed. I am not here by accident (and neither are you). God was personally involved even during my conception (see Psalm 139:13-16). The world and its communities need the philosophical melancholy to help remind them of the deeper things in life. Just as it needs the animated sanguine to remind them of the joys of life and hope; the dynamic choleric to give them a swift kick in the pants, and to remind them there is still work to be done; and the mediating phlegmatic, who reminds them to keep calm, and who reminds them of the need for peace.

Perhaps the most devastating effect of the projected illusionary reality is that it tends to hide God, seemingly taking Him out of the equations altogether. Even if the world was to hate me, my Creator loves me—so much, in fact, He gave His Son to die for me! My calling is not to be a world shaker. My calling is simply to honor God day by day, striving to love Him with all my heart, and to love others as myself. Whether this ever makes the history books does not matter. For when the time does come for me to die, I will not be giving an account to those of Hollywood, Washington, or even the United Nations, but only to God. As long as my life is honoring to Him in this life, I can be certain that my life matters and is making a difference, whether or not I can see it or feel it. This is actual reality!