Do This to Increase Your Happiness – EpicPew

Do This to Increase Your Happiness

Everyone has the ability to increase their happiness regardless of their circumstances. And who doesn’t want to be happy. Studies consistently show that those who have the greatest happiness and the greatest state of mental well-being have an attitude of gratitude.

Even if their lives are not without crosses, they find happiness within. After all, someone living in a mansion can be unhappy with his state in life while a homeless person can be happy that he has a cardboard box that is better than his neighbor’s. Perception is everything but so is the act of looking for the ways we are blessed. A priest speaking at a retreat influenced me to use my rosary to think of something I’m thankful for on each bead, calling it a rosary of gratitude. It takes around 5 minutes but can be life changing.

“Things I used to complain about, I now thank God for,” he told the audience. He instructed us to look even at our difficulties and see the blessings. For instance, having the flu is not fun, but we have plumbing, a bed, clean sheets, access to a wash machine, and so much more that we can be thankful for.

It was a new thought for me at the time: find blessings in even difficult situations. The priest had said that it was life changing for him. I wanted in on that. My list grew to include big things such as the Eucharist and Mass and also the things I once took for granted such as screens on my windows, air conditioning, food and refrigeration and toothbrushes at the Dollar Store—yes, even the simple things that make life easier and affordable for a large family

Suffering too has blessings

Even in the suffering, we can appreciate what comes our way and the blessings that suffering often reveals. Thus, gratitude can be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

Mother Teresa knew this when she said, “Gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems with joy.” She did not say we have to love the problems themselves, but to accept them with joy. A friend taught me this years ago when he shared his story for the Amazing Grace for Families book after losing his only son. After the death of his beloved son Josh, he felt angry with God.

“Steve,” his wife Cathy said, “we can’t be angry. Think of the gift God gave us for twenty-six years. We’ve talked about all the good things about Josh. Look at what we’ve had.” In an instant, Cathy’s words cut through his anger. “God does not want us to be thankful for everything, he wants us to be thankful in all things,” she said. “Then you will look up instead of looking down.”

St. Padre Pio embraced his own suffering but when people came to him wanting to add suffering into their lives, he told them to stop that. God would give them all the suffering they needed, he explained. They just needed to respond with acceptance.

Gratitude offers a way to find joy in the midst of difficulties. I have found it to be a two-step process to grace. First, offer up the suffering since when aligned with the cross of Christ, it is an offering that can answer prayers and draw us nearer to God. The second step is gratitude. I have never said: Thanks for my suffering, but I can find endless appreciations within suffering, from having a roof over my head and food in my cupboards to my Catholic faith and the graces the suffering will bring.

God’s command to us

Gratitude is not just good for us, but God actually commands it of us. Many Scripture passages teach us that we are obligated by God to thank him such as “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” says 1 Thessalonians 5:18. There is also the Eucharistic prayer at Mass we say: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.”

Getting back to the rosary of gratitude, it is something that has deepened my faith and relationship with God. It has brought me a deep abiding peace and joy in my life to see how good God has been to me. Whatever his plan, he has filled it with blessings. I have experienced that the more I recognize them, the more blessed I feel.

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