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10 Things that are Poisoning Your Happiness

  • Brent Rinehart www.apparentstuff.com
10 Things that are Poisoning Your Happiness

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Happiness is an emotion or state of being that scientists and have been studying for years. What leads to happiness, and how can we create it? It’s certainly elusive. A recent study published in SAGE Journal showed that adults over age 30 were less happy than they were 15 years prior. There are certainly societal factors that can contribute to this, such as unemployment rates, the stock market, and other economic conditions. But studies have shown that even with a bustling economy, happiness has continued to decline.

Bad things happen in life; some of them are certainly out of our control. I've had friends bury loved ones, lose jobs and hope, and face various crises. We've all seen tragedy strike our country (and world) again and again. In my own life, I've experienced things that have drained the happiness out of me. We can't control everything, but we can address certain factors that act like poison in our lives and take away the joy that God wants us to experience. A few simple life changes can help us bring it back.

Here are 10 things that may be poisoning your happiness:

1. Screens

1. Screens

A new study by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology from San Diego State University, and her team, reports some startling revelations. They surveyed 1 million U.S. teens, and the findings showed a dramatic decline in happiness starting in 2012. What could cause such a thing? The researchers began asking that question and examining how teens were spending their leisure time. Here’s what they found: “Every activity that didn’t involve a screen was linked to more happiness, and every activity that involved a screen was linked to less happiness. The differences were considerable: Teens who spent more than five hours a day [looking at screens] were twice as likely to be unhappy as those who spent less than an hour a day.”

Many of us face a screen addiction. Some of us look at computers screens at work, check our phones every hour, and watch TV in the evenings. There are positives to the technology and the access we have to information, but at what cost? Our physical health, relationships, and emotional well-being all pay the price.

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2. Social Media

2. Social Media

Ah, social media: one of the complicated inventions of the last decade. Is it good or bad? It gives us the ability to keep in touch with otherwise long-lost friends and family. It allows us to stay in-the-know.Yet it depletes our time and energy, and it drains our emotional batteries. We scroll through the endless feed of our friends’ highlights. This doesn’t usually lead to fulfillment, but rather to the subtle, underlying feeling of our own diminished self-worth. Instead, we need to see realize that social media is not real. We all go through struggles; we just don’t jump to post those on Facebook.

We also tend to get aggravated or angry while reading through social media posts. Many online communities have become increasingly political spaces. It’s Democrat versus Republican, liberal versus conservative, him versus her, and us versus them. Tools designed to foster community have become hindrances to it.

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3. The News

3. The News

I'm going to go out on a limb here: Your level of news consumption has a direct correlation to your happiness. It's impossible to consume hours of cable news programming or read headlines and be happy. It’s hard to watch those programs and have a positive outlook on our country, our fellow man, or our own prospects for the future. News, by nature, is negative. Beyond that, many of us have become obsessed with the commentary surrounding the news. Some of us have created echo-chambers for ourselves, where the news that we consume is the news we want to reinforce our viewpoints. The result isn’t more enlightenment; it’s more anger towards the other side.

Being an informed, active member of society and maintaining our own sanity is a delicate balance. For many of us, we need to turn off the news and talk to our neighbors. When we learn to empathize with others and see things from their point of view, we are more likely to have a more positive outlook.

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4. Your Work

4. Your Work

Did you know that the U.S. ranks 30th (in the bottom 20%) in work/life balance? Many of our full-time workers put in more than 50 hours a week on the job, and a third of us put in work on weekends or holidays. We work hard, and as a result, we may be suffering mentally and physically.

God designed us to work. It’s not wrong to work hard and find fulfillment in doing so. However, if our work causes us to sacrifice investing in those things that are lasting, such as family and the kingdom of God, then it’s time to take some more time off.

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5. Noise

5. Noise

Gordon Hempton is known in academic circles as “The Sound Tracker,” and his pursuit is finding the last quiet places in the world. These are the places that are not polluted by any human-caused sound, and as you can imagine, they are few and far between. The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park - nicknamed, “One Square Inch of Silence” – is one of those places. (Listen for yourself at www.onesquareinch.org).

Other than at the “One Square Inch of Silence,” we can’t escape noise. In fact, my wife and I have taken to using a sound app on my phone at night, just because our room was too quiet. The word “noise” comes from a Latin word meaning pain. Chronic noise has shown to have physical correlations – such as high blood pressure, stress, sleep loss, heart disease and more. We need to find time for rest – and silence – even if only for a few minutes a day. When we silence the world and ourselves, we can truly hear the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).

Photo Credit: Unsplash

6. Worry

6. Worry

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” (Luke 12:25-26). Most of us struggle with worry. We worry about our work, family, finances, and health. Some of us even worry about how much we worry. God asks you to cast “all of your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Worrying can’t change yesterday, and it won’t change tomorrow. All we can do is our best with today. Learning and training ourselves to trust God with things outside of our control is the key to experiencing more joy today.

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7. Regrets

7. Regrets

Just as worrying can’t change the future, dwelling on regrets certainly can’t do anything about the past. We all make mistakes and have regrets. I’ve done things in my life that I can’t take back. I think about them often, even though I know that God has forgiven me.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We need to forgive ourselves, just as God has forgiven us, and move on. The more you dwell on your past, the less you’ll be prepared for your future.

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8. Discontentment

8. Discontentment

Most of us at some point in time have experienced discontentment. It could be desiring a job we don’t have, a house we don’t live in, money we haven’t yet earned, or accolades that haven’t been given to us. The Apostle Paul knew about discontentment as well, but he also knew the secret to dealing with it: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). The secret is really no secret at all. We can’t do it in our own power – we have to look to God to give us the strength to be content.

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9. Selfishness

9. Selfishness

The world will tell you that this is counterintuitive. To be happy, you have to think of yourself first. While you do need to take care of your own mind, body, and spirit; we know from Scripture that God has a higher calling on our lives. That is, to “count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Working in the nonprofit world for a number of years, I’ve heard countless stories from donors and volunteers. Most people experience more of a blessing when they give back than even the people they are serving. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

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10. Absence of God

10. Absence of God

My small group at church just completed a study from pastor Mark Batterson called “Whisper,” based on his book by the same name. The topic is all about listening to God. We know from Scripture that God promises He “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Yet, we certainly leave or forsake God. Or, we allow things in our lives to drown Him out. When we are at our lowest, we often feel that God has abandoned us or stopped speaking. He hasn’t. We’ve just tuned Him out and stopped listening.

If you too have experienced some of these things poisoning your happiness and stealing your joy, there are simple changes you can try: Put down the phone, get off social media, turn off the news, take a break from work, silence the noise, lay aside worry and regrets, stop focusing on ourselves and our own discontentment, and then listen to what God has to say.

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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