Want to be happy? Be a Catholic.

Happiness – something we all want, but we never seem to be able to find it, eh?

Saw an interesting talk today at #BNIUnboxed by Neil Pasricha, the author of The Book of Awesome. During this talk, he listed five things we can do which, according to the research he has studied, will make you happier. What I found absolutely fascinating that the research seemed to miss was that four of the five things are essentially what good Catholics should be more or less doing. What we are taught at children to do, and many nuns and brothers do everyday.

He says if you do one (or more) of these 5 things for 20 days straight, you will develop a habit that will make you happier. Since all of these apparently make people happier, it’s a good habit to develop.

  • Go for a brisk, nature walk at least 3 times a week.
  • Do a “20 minute replay.”
    • This is defined as writing in a journal for 20 minutes, but it can be any type of self-reflection on the day at the end of the day for 20 minutes. An opportunity to list everything that happened, not a place to complain about what went wrong, nor specifically celebrate anything, but rather just restate it.
  • Do Random “Conscientious” Acts of Kindness
  • Meditate
  • Perform Five Gratitudes
    • This is a method where you list 3 things that you are thankful for, one thing that was a problem, and one thing you are working on that you will be thankful for in the future.

Here is the funny part. I heard those five things and found myself thinking, “if you want to be happy, become a Catholic Nun or Monk.” Why? Well, because four of the five items are what nuns and brothers do pretty much every day. What makes it particularly interesting is that the very start of his presentation, he explained how nuns’ autobiographies were used by the positive psychologists to discover that simply being happier is correlated with longer life expectancy.

Here’s why I think this is just being Catholic (well, everything but the brisk walk.)

  • The 20 minute replay is simply proper prayers. Most people think that prayers are simply petitionary, asking God for something. I know I used to think that. However, as Fr. Mike has explained in his many great videos on prayer , a big part of prayer is simply telling God about your day. Yes, God is omnipotent, but that doesn’t meant that he doesn’t want to hear you talk about it. This is the 20 minute replay. Telling God what happened, the ups and downs. Just laying it out there. Not asking for anything, not complaining, just telling the story.
  • Random Conscientious Acts of Kindness are basically being a good Catholic. Doing good to others, without expecting anything back in return. Doing it because it is right, not because there is a personal benefit.
  • Meditation is another prayer item. If you have every seriously done the rosary, or gone to adoration, you have pretty much meditated. Yes, you haven’t moaned “OOOOOHHHHMMMMM” or sat in the lotus position. However, as many who have studied this in detail will tell you, the repetitive nature of the rosary and concentration on the mysteries is meditation. As is the quiet contemplation and mindfulness within adoration. This is special, because the rosary and adoration are particularly Catholic practices. So we have another example of “you want to be happy, be Catholic.”
  • Finally, the five gratitudes is, once again, a form of prayer. When we pray we thank God for all of the blessings he has given us and the graces he provides. We also share and offer up our suffering (our “thorns”), both in petitionary prayers, but also to unite them to the suffering of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of man. Finally, we ask God to help us with those projects we are just starting on.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it appears that if you pray for about a half hour every day, you will be happier; According to Neil, it’s scientifically proven. But, I think it’s important to note how you should pray.

  • Share your day with God, just as a child shares her day at school with her father.
  • Take at least 10 minutes to pray the rosary or have silent contemplation with the father, listen for his voice.
  • Thank God for the blessings you have been given and the graces during that day. (This is a separate thing than the sharing the story, btw.)
  • Finally, offer up your suffering and petitions to him.

And when that is all done, the next day, try even harder to do well for God. Do random acts of kindness and compassion. Go to confession so you don’t have any weights you are dragging around so you can be that much more compassionate.

And suddenly, by simply celebrating your faith, you have accomplished 4 out of the 5 methods for being happier.

Kelly J. Rose

ps. If you want to be 5/5 just become a Franciscan, and go for nature walks. 😉

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