Let’s face it. We’re in hard times. Many people are suffering depression or general unhappiness. Too many are looking for love and happiness in all the wrong places.
Those seeking financial security and a comfortable retirement know to seek good investments and usually diversify their financial portfolio. Some investments are safer, and some more risky. Most agree it’s a good idea to put their money to work for them in more than one way.
Seeking happiness is no different. There are things we can do to invest in our happiness, both now and in the future…and beyond into eternity. Diversifying these investments is equally important, but so many fail to think about or implement a good plan.
There is a saying that happiness is an inside job…and it’s very true. If your pursuit of happiness is in things or others or experiences, you leave yourself vulnerable to disappointment and ultimately to emptiness.
So how can you invest wisely to secure happiness both now and in the future? Here are a few ideas.
1. Invest in your relationship with God—the ultimate source of all happiness and joy.
God made you and has a plan for your happiness. But that plan is not outside of your relationship with Him. Too many people pray for what they want and need, but fail to invest in developing an actual relationship with God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He’s not a genie, after all. Knowing and loving Him, and allowing yourself to understand and experience His incredible love for you is the most important and most secure investment you can make. There is no risk and huge dividends.
But how do you actual “invest” in your relationship with God?
First, you need to get to know God in the Scriptures.
The Bible is God’s love story with you. As you read, you’ll realize what a bunch of screw ups most of the heroes in the Bible actually were. That’s good news! God’s love for you is not conditioned upon what you do or don’t do. He loves you unconditionally and from all eternity. It’s His love and His love alone that can enable you to be the better person you’d like to be. He’s with you. You’re never all alone.
Receive God in the sacraments.
Make regular use of the confessional to unburden yourself of your sins and, most importantly, to receive the graces you need to conquer them. Receive Jesus in Holy Communion as often as you can. A priest told me years ago when I was struggling, that the only remedy he knew was to receive the Eucharist frequently. I believed him, started to go to daily Mass, and it’s made all the difference.
Cultivate holy friendships.
There’s nothing wrong with having friends to hang out with, catch a movie, or play golf. But if you want to grow in your relationship with God, you also need to cultivate holy friendships with others who are also seriously trying to build their faith.
Attending daily Mass, if at all possible, can help with all of the above. Each Mass includes three scripture readings (sometimes four), follow a liturgical year, celebrates all sorts of saints and feast days, avails you of Holy Communion and can be a great place to get to know other “regulars” as you see them day after day. You may not be able to quote scripture and verse from the Bible, like many of our evangelical brothers and sisters, (I’m always impressed with that!) but trust me, you’ll learn more scripture over time than you may realize.
Start regular spiritual reading
There’s no substitute for Scripture of course, but there is tremendous benefit to reading other spiritual books- classics like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, The Confessions of St. Augustine, stories of the saints, or anything by Fulton Sheen, GK Chesterton, or Scott Hahn. Spiritual reading is the superhighway to spiritual growth…and inner peace.
2. Foster happiness from within
Let’s face it, the one person you are with day in and day out, the one you can’t escape, is you. It’s so easy to get down on yourself or compare yourself to others and feel inadequate. Big mistake!
God gave you unique gifts and talents and has a purpose for your life, right here, right now. Spend time getting in touch with who you really are in God’s eyes. What are your likes and dislikes? What brings you joy? What are your unique gifts, strengths and abilities? The Clifton Strengths Finder is an awesome test you can take to learn more about what makes you who you are and how you can maximize your own potential, and happiness, by living in those strengths, rather than constantly swimming upstream against your weaknesses. Working with a Certified Strengths Coach can help you to really capitalize on your results.
Silence and solitude
Spend some time in silence and solitude each day, or as much as your schedule allows. With small children, this can be challenging, I know. But you need to cultivate silence to be able to experience all that is good, beautiful and true about you and around you. A few minutes in the morning or before bed, or on your lunch hour can help keep you calm and at peace through the chaos of daily life.
3. Build healthy relationships
The one thing you will take with you into eternity are your relationships. Investing time in the most important human relationships is critical to a happy life…and a happy eternity. If you’re married, make time for your spouse as your first priority. Amid the busyness and chaos of family life, setting aside time to nurture your marital relationship pays big dividends, not only for your own happiness and that of your spouse, but for your kids and future generations that will rest on that foundation. It goes without saying that investing in time well spent with your children is your next priority.
Making time for extended family and friendships will increase your own happiness and give a foretaste of the eternal destiny to which God calls each of us in the Communion of saints in heaven.
4. Activities and Entertainment
Too many people put this as their first priority, and consequently their happiness can be rather unstable. Like the icing on a cake, entertainment and events have an important place in our lives. Jesus performed His first public miracle at a wedding celebration…and that miracle wasn’t one of healing the sick or casting out demons, but of turning water into wine to enhance the celebration.
Taking time for vacations, long weekends, or weekend entertainment is important to a balanced life—just keep it in perspective. When it comes to priorities, notice this comes in at number four (but still made the top five!).
Stuff, stuff, and more stuff. That describes most homes in America these days…and if you’ve moved recently, you know exactly what I mean. We all have a lot of stuff!
Take time to examine what you really need. That can be hard to differentiate from your wants…it’s so easy to believe we need many things that we actually do not. Think first of the basics—food, shelter, clothing etc.
Then consider your wants…and there is nothing wrong with wanting things. Consider though what gives you joy and start divesting of the rest. A nicely decorated home that gives you peace and welcomes friends and family, can be a source of happiness and joy. A lovely garden or even a nice car can also give you joy…but recognize their rightful place after the other priorities above.
There is nothing wrong with possessions—as long as you keep them in the right priority. Without realizing it, possessions can start to possess you if you’re not careful. Everything comes with a cost, not only financially, but in upkeep as well. Possessions have their place but in the context of your emotional portfolio, they can be the riskiest investment.
Focus first on God and His love for you and all the rest will fall into its rightful place.
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