The Struggle To Be Happy
An active member can be expected to attend up to 175 hours of religious services per year. This does not include the time that they will spend going to leadership meetings, attending the temple, going to ward and stake functions or any time that is put towards church callings.
On top of that, we still have to deal with life in general. Life obstacles can be overwhelming, even spiritually handicapping. It gets hard to genuinely smile.
There are a zillion reasons why this could be. We don’t feel supported in our wards. We feel alone at church. We’re not satisfied in our families. We wrestle with doubts. Depression and anxiety seem to rot away all of the good in our worlds. Overall, we’re just not feeling it.
Due to unhappiness, some of us have felt the need for greener pastures. Maybe we’ve even gone searching for whatever that pasture symbolizes. Whatever it is, that search for satisfaction is real and sensitive.
If you have ever struggled with being happy, you are not alone. Here are seven things that will help you.
Choose to be Happy
“You choose to be offended” was one of my high school teachers’ mantra. To me, those words mean that I may not be able to control my situation, but I can choose how I react. For example, I can choose to be happy. I can choose to not be angry. I can choose to not wallow in sadness or guilt. Although it is difficult, we all can.
“You can be wise and happy or dumb and miserable. The choice is yours” ―Gordon B. Hinckley
This ability to choose is power; it is our God-given gift of agency. Here are four things that you need to know about agency:
- We make our own decisions freely.
- We cannot escape the positive or negative consequences of ours or others’ use of agency.
- We cannot take hold of someone else’s agency.
- Our reactions to the obstacles that life presents us are entirely within our control.
You can use your agency by choosing to be happier. That said, the process can be challenging.
Begin taking note of what you do or say when you start to feel negative. When you realize it, switch your behavior. Instead of swearing say “Butterflies”! Instead of diving into and conquering that whole gallon of BYU Creamery ice cream in your freezer, go on a walk and get fresh air.
Using this gift of agency is important. How would you feel if you gave a friend a gift that he or she mistreated? We would find that to be dishonorable.
Therefore, we must take care of this gift as well. As we use our agency correctly, choosing positive things (such as happiness) over negative things, we honor God and become happier people.
Turn to the Lord and Be Obedient
We can turn to the Lord in every situation. As we follow Him and do what makes Him happy (not just doing what we want to do) our ability to be happy will increase.
Mission President Nolan Taylor taught his missionaries in Oklahoma the importance of this with a new word, Turn-hearken-do. It means “turn to the Lord; hearken to His word; and do His will”.
Turn to the Lord
Seek Him out in faith with a desire to change and follow His example
Hearken to His Word
Humbly search the words of the prophets and listen to those that God has put in your path to counsel you (Bishops, Home Teachers, Relief Society president, etc).
Do His Will
Listen to and obey the spirit. It will help you to know when you have heard His will.
This is such a powerful reminder! As we turn more fully towards the Lord, we will want to be obedient. Ultimately, God wants us to be happy. After all, “men are, that they might have joy.” By following this turn-hearken-do pattern, your ability to be happy will skyrocket, because you will have become more obedient.
“When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight” ―Joseph B. Wirthlin
As you delight in turning to the Lord, you will bask in joy. More importantly, you will make your Heavenly Father happy by giving Him your obedience.
Learn to Love
When we are distant towards love we keep ourselves away from happiness. It can be hard to love. People have hurt us. Our guard is up. We hold onto anger and may even feel guilt and, because of that, we find it hard to forgive ourselves and others.
There are times when we may find ourselves faltering in our abilities to love another person or ourselves. During these times, prayer is our best tool. Here are three things that you can pray for:
- Ask God to show you the love that He has for that person (this would be great to apply to home or visiting teachees!).
- Pray for the strength to love as He does.
- Ask God for a hug (This sounds strange, I know, but you can ask for a spiritual hug anytime from your Father).
“Never forget that your Heavenly Father knows, loves and Cherishes you” ―Dieter F. Uchtdorf
God’s love is power! It brings strength in times of peace and of trial. As you pray for this love, God will help you love others as He loves them. Ultimately, it will guide you to being a happier person.
Lift Where You Stand
“What can I get out of this?” is an attitude where people constantly look to others for the fulfillment of their needs. This is not a very happy way to live. When we become fixated on this notion, we forget our role in lifting the burdens of others.
“If you really want joy and happiness, then serve others with all your heart. Lift their burden, and your own burden will be lighter” ―Ezra Taft Benson
President Uchtdorf once told a story about a group of brethren who needed to move a grand piano. The task was nearly impossible. One of the brethren advised the others to lift where they stood. As each brother did so, carrying their share of the weight, the piano was moved.
Had one of those men just decided to watch the brethren’s struggle, the piano might have still moved but it would have been a heavier weight for each man to lift. Here are five ways that you can lift where you stand:
- Accept and magnify callings given to you.
- Do your home and visiting teaching.
- Help a new member move into the ward.
- Go to a ward or stake service project.
- If you know of a busy or stressed out mom, offer to watch her kids for a few hours.
By lifting the burdens of others we are lifting where we stand. Although it might take away from our time, strength and provisions, nothing could put a price on all of the positive and uplifting feelings that we will feel.
Keep a Miracle Journal
At times, we feel like we are doing everything that we’re supposed to. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be enough. In these times joy is harder to access. We become blind towards the miracles and can’t see the “windows of heaven” showering blessings upon us.
At one point on my mission I was really searching for those windows and felt prompted to write down a miracle that I saw every day. At first, the miracles were small and mundane but soon found that they were way bigger than that.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is” ―Albert Einstein
This is how you can keep a miracle journal:
- Throughout the day keep your eyes peeled for miracles.
- Before you go to bed each night, write down a couple of those miracles.
- When times are tough, read through your list of miracles.
Searching for these miracles and learning to appreciate them gave me a joy that I had longed for. As you keep a miracle journal, you can experience that as well. In the beginning, you might write things that could be seen as coincidental to worldly eyes. Little by little, you will find joy as you come to see God’s hand in your life.
Spend Time Making Someone Happy
At times, others are the solution to our struggle with happiness. They give us hugs when we are grieving. They bring us cookies or a sweet note just to let us know that they were thinking about us. All in all, they make us feel really good and, hopefully, they make us want to do the same for others.
“To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside of ourselves” ―Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson has set a great example for us to follow. He has helped to make others happy his whole life as he reaches out to people. Here are a few things that he has done that we can do too:
- As a boy, he would do his neighbor’s yard work.
- As a bishop, he visited the elderly and the sick.
- As a prophet, he touches the hearts of others by saying kind and gentle words to them.
If you were to spend one week focusing on others, trying to make them happy, you would experience that happiness as well. Here are three blessings that will come:
- You will love and laugh more.
- You will develop stronger relationships.
- You will be more happier at the end of the week than you were at the beginning.
Hopefully, more than anything, you will gain a love for focusing on others and incorporate it more in your life, rather than making it a one-week challenge.
Search the Treasured Scriptures
Hunting for treasure has been a long-time fad. Infamous pirates such as Davy Jones and Blackbeard were well known for scavenging the seven seas for gold and battling navies over power. Their lusts for the riches of the world could never be satisfied. If they had only known just how powerful the scriptures were, though, they would have lusted after them instead, as they are worth more than gold.
“Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high” ―Richard G. Scott
With the scriptures in your hands, you have the key to powers and abilities that come only from God. Here is how you can access those powers:
- Spend a few minutes everyday searching for verses on happiness and joy.
- Write down a brief note about the verses that you can carry in your pocket.
- As you come across obstacles, refer to that note and ponder about it.
These verses won’t take away completely from your hardships, but they will make your burdens lighter. They will give you power: power to withstand temptation and to overcome life’s obstacles. They give answers to the petitioner; hope to the hopeless; direction to the lost; and peace to the distraught. If you let them, the scriptures can even give you the power to be happy.
What will you choose?
Being happy is more than just cracking a smile. It’s about all the choices that we make in order to provide for our emotional health. First and foremost, we have to choose to be happy. We hope that you will choose to use several of the seven ways listed here to help you be happier. Share with us your experiences!