Monday, June 7, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

Monday June 7, 2010- If you were asked, "What is the greatest quest of mankind?", what would your answer be? You might say, "solving world hunger, the aids epidemic, or world peace". But I truly think the greatest quest of humanity is the pursuit of happiness. So how do we find true happiness? People have attempted for thousands of years to attain it. Some have, while others have failed miserably. But to be able to grasp happiness, we have to understand what causes true happiness.
First, I want to look at this from a natural(or secular) perspective, then from a supernatural(spiritual)one. Large amounts of scientific research have been done, only to come to a conclusion that can be found in scripture from the beginning. First, let us look at it from a scientific standpoint.
On New Years day 1998 three psychologists came together in Akumal, Mexico to discuss this very topic. Martin Seligman, Ray Fowler and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi(pronounced "cheeks-sent-me-high")were the very men to take on the scientific quest for the pursuit of happiness. One year after their conversation, Seligman and company gathered again in Akumal for the first annual conference on "positive psychology". In the years that followed the conference, the evidence for what makes people happy began to flow in like the Gulf breeze. So what did they find? This may surprise you. More money doesn't make you happy. Once our basic material needs are met, additional money does almost nothing to raise the level of satisfaction in our lives. How about education? Surely another degree at a better institution could make me happy. Again, research showed that a better education or even a higher IQ didn't equate happiness. How about the fountain of youth? In a culture who has made adolescence an art form, surely youth would make us happy. Nope. Older people, studies show, are consistently happier than young people, and showed less bouts with depression. Well what about the weather. Surely sunnier climates like Florida or California would make the difference. Again no difference between Californians and Michiganders. Go figure! So what does cause happiness? Dr. Edward Diener"Dr. Happiness" conducted a survey in 2002 along with Seligman. Students who tested with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression all had one foundational thing in common: significant social ties to friends and family.
In other words, connection is the key to happiness. Awesome!
The reality of this innate need for connection is often most clearly revealed in the experience of dis-connection.Dropped cell phone calls, the loss of a job or career opportunity, a breakup, the death of a loved one- each kind of disconnection alerts us to the fact the we were meant to connect.
Now lets look at this through a different lens. It has been here all along. Look at Genesis 2:18 " The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Pretty simple isn't it. True happiness is in our connections. Any questions?