With spring well on its way, new life seems to be the theme of my world.I watch the new blossoms fill the trees and fade away into green leaves. The tiny plants peek through the ground, and soon they are full-grown plants bearing fruit.
Time is going so quickly, and I wonder about my own growth. Am I making any progress at all? What have I accomplished? On New Year’s Day, I jotted down some resolutions, but as Mary Poppins says, they were “pie crust promises, easily made and easily broken.”
My resolutions were penned meticulously on a calendar, and the calendar is lost somewhere in the clutter in my office. I haven’t seen it for weeks. If my resolutions had been important, I would have made an accurate measure of my progress.
I have the nagging feeling that I’m getting set in my ways! To be set in your ways was a terrible fate. In simple terms, you have a one-track mind and your train is set on autopilot, going nowhere. Someone once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I guess it’s time to stop the train and examine a few things. I guess the question is not, “Am I progressing?” but “Am I happy?”
I’m not talking about pleasure, which is fleeting and often illusive. I’m talking about a feeling that permeates every aspect of life. It’s a feeling of joy and delight in the little things. Am I really happy? How can one really be happy on autopilot?
I have lived long enough to know what makes me happy. I know what I like to do, and I know what makes me miserable. I feel like the old dog in the farmhouse that moaned and groaned all day. The neighbor asked the farmer, “What is wrong with the dog?” The farmer answered, “He is sleeping on a nail.” The neighbor says, “Why doesn’t he move?” The farmer smiled, “It doesn’t hurt enough to make him move; it only hurts enough to make him complain.”
Here are 10 things that create happiness for me. I’ll call them the Ten Commandments of Happiness.
1. Take time to pray and read the scriptures.
Someone once said, “If you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.” When you read, read for messages from God. What is He trying to teach you? Why did He want this particular passage recorded? Why did He tell that story? Why did He give this commandment? Think about how the passage relates to your life in the modern world. Joy will come into your soul as you feel His presence in your life.
2. Take time to walk in the sunshine and enjoy the wonders of nature.
The Lord has created the world to bring joy and delight to our spirits. He has also created nature to teach us lessons about His love.
A bird caring for its young can teach the consistency of His nurturing love. A blade of grass reaching heavenward can teach us perspective and our need to look upward. Evaporation and the rain cycle can teach how His words flow down to us, refreshing us, and how in turn our words in prayer return to Him, to which He answers by sending us another outpouring of His love. Nature teaches; we just have to take time to notice the lessons.
3. Take time to create.
There is nothing so fulfilling as creating something of beauty to bless someone else. Some people paint, some write, some make quilts, while some cook to express their creativity. We become like our Father as we create something with our hands. It’s hard to stay on autopilot when you are trying something new.
4. Take time to read good literature.
People are so trained to get their information from the television, or the Internet, picking up a book to read is almost passé. Writers often have a connection with the infinite that helps us know God though their eyes. Shakespeare, for example, lived centuries ago, but his wit and wisdom transcends all time. Take time to read.
5. Take time to write a journal of blessings, insights and events.
Writing will not only enlarge your memory, but it will be a joy to read in the future. Of course, if you write each day about the same events, recording only how your train skids down the track, writing will not benefit you, but if you look for newness and differences and record your talks with God, it will bless you forever, and your posterity will bless you for having shared your life with them.
6. Take time to rest.
There is an old saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Late to bed, late to rise, makes a man sick and soon he dies.” It is hard to see life in a positive light when you are groggy from not enough sleep. You live in a state of wakeful sleep or a state of sleepful waking. Either way, you do not live life to the fullest, and you miss the delights you could have had.
7. Take time to organize.
Clutter is a killer of time. When you have to wade through things to find a lost shoe, the keys or a bill that should have been paid, you waste precious time that you could use in reading, writing and creating. Hunting for things also causes frustration and anger. Here are three rules about becoming organized. If you are not using it, give it away, throw it away or display it. If it is a keepsake, display it. If it is an heirloom, give it to someone who will cherish it. If is not something worth keeping, throw it away.
8. Take time to laugh and play.
One sure way to know if your train is on autopilot is to check your sense of humor. What makes you laugh? Do you find humor in your daily life? Do you sit in front of the TV and allow the canned laughter to do your emoting? Sometimes it is good to go to the park and pretend you are a kid again. Get on the swings, go down the slide, climb on the monkey bars, and play tag. If you are worried about falling, cut paper dolls from the catalog, play jacks, color in a coloring book, or put a puzzle together. Tell yourself a joke, or dress up in play clothes and pretend you are someone else. Most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously. God has a sense of humor – just look at all the strange things He created.
9. Take time to express appreciation.
It is difficult to express heartfelt appreciations without smiling. There are so many things to be grateful for. The song that says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” is excellent advice. Let your spouse and children know how much you love and appreciate them. Someday, you will be gone, or they will be taken from you. Your memories will be your treasure chest. Make sure it is filled with joyful jewels of love.
10. Take time to listen to good music and sing.
Music brings joy to the soul and “tames the savage beast.” I am not talking about the jungle music that blares from the radio, the beer-drinking ballads that make you wonder if your spouse is cheating or the rap music with its lewd lyrics. I’m talking about music that inspires you to love and be loved – music that softens your heart and makes you want to be better. You need to be selective, but there is music that was inspired of the Almighty to bless our lives.
It is easy not to sing. You can be passive and think, “Others sing much better than I do. I’ll just listen.” But you are missing out on a great blessing and source of comfort. Even Jesus sang hymns. I believe that a hymn sung with a humble heart is a prayer to the Lord.
There are other principles that bring happiness into the life of an individual, but I have found these things bring joy to me. I am not perfect. In fact, I identify them as commandments to help me get off autopilot and start living again. Time goes so quickly, if we don’t point ourselves in the right direction and build habits of happiness, we will find at the end of life that we have been propelled down a track with a dead end, with nothing to show for all the years of existing. PD
“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”
—John Greenleaf Whittier