What Makes the Heart Sing?

By Anita S. Meily, Philippine Panorama Vol. 34, No. 13

Everyone wants to be happy. However, happiness can be very elusive because sometimes we look for it in the wrong places. Some people get married to be happy and when they’re not, they blame their mate. One who is not a happy person to begin with cannot find it in marriage either.

Wealth? Some people think: If only I can be rich, I surely be happy. Little do they know that sometimes wealth only causes more problems: envy, family squabbles, or less time with the family.

Youth? Researches claim that older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young. Perhaps, there is less confusion about life and less pressure to achieve.

So what makes the heart sing? Here are some pointers:

Rutt Veenhoven, professor of happiness studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, claims that people between the ages of 30 to 50 are less happy than other groups perhaps because in midlife, they have “less freedom and more responsibilities” in terms of kids, jobs and mortgages. People are most happiest when their job allows them a certain amount of freedom and decision-making power.

Veenhoven concludes: “Happiness is how much you like the life you are living.” Happiness is not a static stage. Researchers claim that the cheeriest people feel blue at times, and even the bluest ones have their moments of joy.

What are the things that make one happy? First of all, religious faith lifts the spirit. How can one not feel happy when one knows there is a God who loves you even more than you love yourself? Another factor is friends. Studies conducted at the University of Illinois showed that “the most salient characteristics shared by the 10 percent of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family.

Sonja Lynbomirsky, psychologist from the University of California has the following suggestions on how to lift your level of happiness:

  • Count your blessings. Too often we take all the good things in life for granted until we lose them: our health, our spouse, our children, etc. A researcher suggests jotting down in a “gratitude journal” once a week, three to five things you are thankful for.
  • Practice acts of kindness. Being kind to people gives you positive vibes, especially when you get smiles and “thank you.”
  • Savor life’s joys. Sometimes, we are so busy making money or even doing apostolic work that we don’t take time to smell the roses or watch the sunset.
  • Thank a mentor. Take time to express your gratitude to someone who guided or is still guiding you through life’s crossroads: a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, spiritual director, etc.
  • Learn to forgive. Inability to forgive is pride, and hurts one more than the one who wronged you.
  • Invest time and energy in family and friends. As is often said, at your deathbed, you will not regret the loss of a deal, or less time spent at the office. What you will regret is the time you might have spent with your family and friends.
  • Take care of your body. Get enough sleep, exercise and take care of your diet. Smile and laugh your way through life. They say 20 seconds of hearty laughter is equivalent to 15 minutes of aerobics.
  • Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. A good relationship with the Lord will help you cope with whatever life deals you. Another way is to go out and help the less fortunate. “An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves,” according to Lydia M. Child.

In the Time Magazine issue, Alan Robles writes that it doesn’t take much to make Filipinos happy. Despite poverty, corruption, inequality, and everything else, Filipinos are happy because for us, “happiness isn’t material – it’s social.” We are happiest when we are in a group. Above all else, it is our strong faith in God that keeps us happy. Therein lies our salvation as a people.


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