Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Luci Swindoll's new book, Simple Secrets to a Happy Life (Thomas Nelson, 2012).
Society often pressures people to try to “have it all” in order to live happy lives. But it’s not possible to have it all in this fallen world, and chasing that dream will only disappoint and frustrate you, making happiness elusive.
Nevertheless, it is possible to live a happy life. You can do that by focusing on a better goal than having it all: having what matters most.
Here’s how you can live a happy life by focusing on some simple things that have eternal value:
Be on time for everything. Showing up on time lets others know that you care about them and that they can really trust you to be responsible and fully engaged in relationships with them. Enjoying those kinds of healthy relationships will make you happy.
Take Jesus with you everywhere. When you remind yourself to focus on the reality of God’s presence with you in every situation, you can experience peace that will make you happy.
Let people know you care, but carefully. Don’t neglect caring for the people you sense God calling you to help, but be sure to take care of your own needs in the process. You can derive happiness both from seeing how your efforts help people in need, and from making sure that your own needs are met.
Learn to organize your stuff. It’s worthwhile to make the effort to get and stay organized, because an orderly life will eliminate unnecessary stress, helping you relax and feel happy.
Keep your word every time. When you live with complete integrity by always saying what you mean doing what you say, you’ll naturally enjoy happy relationships with other people.
Read your Bible every day. When you give yourself a daily dose of the words of life that the Bible contains, you can experience all the blessings – including happiness – that come from absorbing those words into your soul.
Accept events as they happen. Don’t let life’s unexpected events steal your happiness. Instead, accept them as they happen, trusting God to do what’s best through them and serving God no matter what. When you do, you’ll experience the happiness of seeing God fulfill good purposes from any event.
Stay proactive about your health. Your body is God’s creation and a temple of the Holy Spirit; you have a sacred responsibility to take good care of it. If you do whatever you can to be physically healthy, you’ll be able to enjoy life to the fullest.
Focus on what’s important now. You can feel happiest when you’re fully engaged in what God wants you to focus on during each particular moment in time. Live consciously – alert to God’s presence with you and guidance for you – so you won’t miss fully experiencing each moment that God gives you.
Allow yourself to be sad. In your quest to be happy, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you must always feel happy. It’s healthy to feel sorrow at appropriate times, because God can use sorrow to draw you closer to Him and creatively inspire you.
Acknowledge your need for help. Receiving help (from prayer support to practical support like assistance with meals or rides) when you need it (such as during a crisis) from others who care about you will make you much happier than having important needs unmet because you’ve neglected to ask for help when you truly need it.
Remember to notice things today. God is constantly placing blessings in your life that can make you happy – but only when you pay attention and notice them.
Disregard what isn’t your business. Drama happens all around us in this fallen world. You’ll be happiest when you don’t get caught up unnecessarily in what’s happening in other people’s lives (unless God has clearly called you to get involved) and focus on dealing with your own issues.
Think before you say it. Avoiding the regret that comes from speaking carelessly will make you happy. Keep in mind that words contain great power to bring about either good or evil. So carefully consider your words before you talk.
List your thoughts and dreams. Since happiness often comes from pursuing God’s dreams for you, reflect on your thoughts and dreams and list them so you can pray about each one specifically. Then see what God does to shape your dreams to align with His will and make them come true.
Acquire a brand-new skill. You can derive great happiness from learning how to do something you’re interested in, and every new day that God gives you is a fresh opportunity to learn, so take advantage of it.
Get doctrine under your belt. Get to know biblical truths well and apply them regularly to your life; when you do, you can be happy because you’ll be approaching life from the right perspective.
Cook something special for yourself. Enjoying what you eat every day can bring you lots of happiness as it reminds you of God’s creativity and provision for you. Don’t hesitate to cook delicious, healthy meals – even if you’re only cooking for yourself – because the effort is worthwhile.
Listen with your whole heart. When you listen carefully to other people, you can come to understand each other well and enjoy happy times together.
Forgive others over and over. Happiness often comes from enjoying healthy relationships, and you can do that when you obey God’s command to forgive people who have hurt you and apologize to the people you have hurt. Always be willing to forgive, with God’s help.
Give your time, energy, and money. Regularly give your resources to the people in need whom God calls you to help. As you give practical helps to others, God will give happiness to you.
Live an attitude of gratitude. Train yourself to notice the many blessings that God is constantly pouring into your life. Then make a habit of thanking God for the blessings He has given you. Each time you do, you’ll grow happier.
Adapted from Simple Secrets to a Happy Life, copyright 2012 by Luci Swindoll. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Luci Swindoll was part of the Women of Faith (www.womenoffaith.com) speaking team for 12 years. As an author, popular speaker, photographer, musician, artist, and world traveler, Luci loves to share her joy of life with everyone else she encounters.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: April 17, 2012