The secret to happiness, cont.

Your response to the last post from Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services, about finding joy and peace with what you have rather than always chasing more, had such a strong response, we invited him back to expand on the topic. Below, Patrick offers specific examples of opportunities for gratitude and reflection.

If you enjoyed my last post (The Secret to Happiness), in which we considered cleaning up after oxen and Buddy the Elf, you will recognize this entry as a sort of “Step 2”. Where last time we discovered that happiness doesn’t often come from what we do not have but instead what we have already been given, this time we will learn to welcome joy and satisfaction.

Enjoyment and satisfaction aren’t exactly an epidemic in this country right now. There are many studies on the pursuit of happiness that prove quite the contrary, claiming depression rates are nearing 20 percent. With so many people in the world battling these feelings, we have to wonder: What is the antidote? Simply put, we must learn to enjoy and be satisfied.

What is joy, any way? Joy is the host of the cooking show, after 20 minutes of demonstrating how to make the avocado burger with onion straws topped with the tomato and herb mix, finally cutting into it and taking a big bite. That expression on his face is one of joy.

What is satisfaction? Satisfaction is the empty nest couple on the home improvement store commercial looking over the room they just painted, putting their arms around one another and leaning on the extension pole with the paint roller on it. They smile as they gaze first at the room, then at each other.

Listen to this amazing bit of truth from the Hebrew Scriptures:
Ecclesiastes 2:24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.

I’m afraid that many of us have bought into the lie that the guy in red tights with little horns and a pitchfork wants us to have as much fun as possible and that God is here to be a prude and ruin everything that we might otherwise enjoy. That’s a lie. According to this passage, God is the one who wants to enable us to enjoy all things. He created them.

Everyday Opportunities to Experience Joy and Satisfaction

  • Dinnertime, lunchtime, a coffee break, snack time, breakfast and the end of a workday.
  • When anything ends. Whether it’s a football season, a job, a week, a day, a hard season, a year of school, a project, a list, make a habit of celebrating. Have you ever noticed that at a party (a birthday, a graduation, a wedding, a retirement) it’s almost impossible not to feel joy and satisfaction? Insert those on a smaller scale on a more frequent basis. In my family growing up it was going for ice cream. After a ball game or a band concert, we could be found at the ice cream shop with long red plastic spoons in our hands. And while we were there, we weren’t fretting about the next concert, we were basking in joy and satisfaction and, most importantly, celebrating.
  • Anytime you purposefully slow down to notice birds, trees, flowers, etc. Joy doesn’t rush in. It dawns on you.

I know you didn’t get through your list of tasks. I know there is more to do tomorrow and you didn’t even get done today what you hoped to get done. But the fact is that you likely got something accomplished. Be happy about it.

Let’s close by affirming this truth together. Seriously, it would be good for you to say this out loud: “God created all things for us to enjoy, and he wants us to actually enjoy them.” To learn to enjoy life, you may have to practice.

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