The SECRET to Feeling Happy

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Want to know the secret to happiness?

God seems to keep bringing young people across my path who are struggling with mental health issues and self-harm – and what’s frightening is these young people seem to be getting younger and younger.

It makes me really sad when kids as young as 6 or 7 say that they think the world would be better off without them.

And these aren’t all kids from what we would think of as disadvantaged families – many of them have parents who are actively involved in their lives, who are trying desperately to help them, but who keep on coming up against barriers – and nothing seems to help.

Some of them are kids from Christian families who spend each Sunday at church.

We know that mental health issues are on the rise in our community. Interestingly, there’s another group within our community who is also struggling with similar issues of feeling inadequate and unwanted – and that’s the people who have recently been through relationship separation or divorce.

I’m speaking from experience here when I say that the breakdown of a long-term relationship, and in my case it was a marriage of 13 years, is devastating for everyone involved.

You go from feeling like you’ve built decent life together to it all being torn apart, and there’s nothing to show for all of that investment in each other but a hefty legal bill.

You wonder whether all of the good memories were illusions and you second guess a lot of things and that can do nasty things to your feelings of self-worth, and your sense of who you really are.

You go very quickly from having what you thought was it all, even if you knew it wasn’t perfect, to not knowing where you fit or who you are.

And the whole thing can seem totally hopeless and unrecoverable.

And that’s when things are amicable when it comes to parenting. When they’re complex – well, that takes everything to a whole new level.

If our children, young people and adults are all dealing with the same fundamental problem of a lost or low sense of self, it not only shows us how widespread the problem is, but also that there may be a common theme in how to combat the issue.

A few years ago God showed me that the enemy is using identity-focused deception to rob a whole generation of their wholeness.

We are taught by our world and our culture to look within ourselves for the answers, so it doesn’t take a lot of effort to convince us that what we are feeling must be a true reflection of reality – so if we’re feeling hopeless, or unloved, or unwanted – then we assume that must be the truth of the situation, and we spiral ourselves deeper into depression.

But what if, instead of letting our feelings control our choices – we let our choices control our feelings?

A few years ago I found out something really amazing about our brain.

You see, when God formed us, he gave us a brain that doesn’t like to be wrong.

So if we say something along the lines of ‘nobody loves me’ then our brain actually goes out of its way to prove itself right – it goes and digs through all its archives, and finds all of the examples of people not loving us and shows them to us.

They pop up in our thoughts.

And if our brain hears our mouth say ‘I’m bad at maths’ (or running, or sports, or music, or singing) then it will not only go searching for all the examples of how we’ve been bad at whatever that activity was in the past, but it will actively sabotage our attempts at doing maths in the future – because to suddenly be good at maths would mean that we were wrong and our brain wants to be right every time.

Philippians chapter 4 verse 8 says we should spend our time thinking about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is worthy of praise, and things of any excellence.

Notice that it doesn’t say that we should spend time thinking about our feelings?

Now let’s look at our tongue and the power of our words.

Psalm 34 verse 13 warns us to keep our tongue from speaking evil and our lips from telling lies.

Proverbs chapter 18 verse 21 says that the tongue can bring death or life – so our words wields quite a bit of power.

If we actively choose to feel a certain way, and we speak that choice, then our brain will go out of its way to reinforce that choice – and our feelings will shift to line up with that choice.

And the best thing is – you don’t actually have to ‘believe’ the truth of your choice when you’re just getting started.

You just have to deliberately choose it, and communicate that choice to your brain.

Coincidentally, this is why so many people recommend affirmations – because when you say something out loud, your brain is listening, and goes out of its way to bring all of the relevant experiences to the front of your mind.

So here are 3 ways that I’ve found helpful in improving my happiness, even when the circumstances around me are awful – the first way is to keep a gratitude journal.

The way I do this is to have a single day to page diary, and every day as I’m finishing work I write down at least 3 things that I’m thankful for on that day.

They can be anything, from the sound of birds singing in the garden, to a particular person who has made me smile.

My only rule is that I can’t use any blessings from the previous day, they have to be ‘fresh’ ones. The other thing I write down every day is 5 things I have accomplished.

This doesn’t come out of an achievement focus, but more as a record of the fact that even if my day got totally hijacked and ended up really different to what I planned to do – I still got some stuff done and it wasn’t ‘wasted’.

It’s also a handy record to look back on.

The second thing that has helped to improve my happiness is to set alarms on my phone to remind me of the things that I am choosing throughout the day.

Particularly when you’re new to this choosing thing, it helps to get a reminder every few hours to jog your memory.

Even now, every morning I wake up to a reminder that I choose to glorify Jesus today in my thoughts, my words and my actions.

When your reminder pops up, use your tongue to speak your choice, just to make it even clearer to your brain.

The third thing that has really helped me when I’m feeling bad about myself is to draw or write out my choices.

Don’t be tempted to write out the negative choices, focus on writing or drawing out the positive choices and they will literally grow on you and change the way you feel about life.

This is about far more than affirmations – it’s about making choices that are good for us and then affirming those choices in a way that causes lasting change in our brain and in our feelings.

If you’re feeling bad at the moment and life seems hopeless, remember that you have the ability to choose to feel better, even feel happy – even when the circumstances around you aren’t great.

And if it’s lasting change and wholeness you’re after, perhaps the greatest choice any of us can make is to choose to see ourselves the way that God sees us, and to choose to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Until next time, blue skies!

P.S If you found this idea interesting or useful, save it for later by pinning it to your Christian Encouragement board on Pinterest.

P.P.S. If you have a friend who might benefit from this message, make sure you take the time right now to share this with them!

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