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. 😉

My first Father’s Day weekend.

Small hand – Big hand (If this image doesn’t show up, blame Instagram)

Father’s Day weekend has come and passed; almost perfectly timed with William becoming a social creature. I will admit that before he became social, it was a bit odd taking care of him. He was pretty much a cat that can’t walk around – ie. eat, sleep, poop, repeat. My job was to clean up the poop.

I could try/pretend to play with him and such, but he would barely respond in any way that could be considered social. So, those moments were more me playing with myself.

A little while ago (couple of weeks I think), he started to smile back at mommy and me. the first time that happened, it was pretty amazing. Whether it was an instinctual or automatic response on his part, it still felt like he was finally showing how much he cared and appreciated the efforts we were putting into making him happy and comfortable. He ceased being a cat, and started being more human.

This week, almost as a father’s day gift, he started to talk back in response to me, hold my hand and pull me near when he was lonely, and the very best, squeeze when I held him. I would bet that many people with children would understand this. There is no greater feeling. I wish I could explain it fully.

I can only explain it from my Catholic faith – it feels like pure unadulterated love. The type of love that is described in catechism to young people, who are probably too inexperienced to really understand it. He is no longer needing you there, he is wanting you there. He doesn’t even really know why.

This continued to peak during this Father’s Day weekend; specifically just after Suzanne gave me William’s gift, a cute t-shirt that said “daddy is my hero.” Now, you must admit that was more of a gift for himself, but I can excuse it since he’s still young and learning things like “gift-giving.” I smiled, give him a peck on the forehead and moved on with my day.

Then he started to cry…

and cry…

and cry…

A strange new cry, almost inconsolable. He wasn’t hungry, didn’t have a wet diaper, and wasn’t dealing with the common gas pain; he didn’t want his swing, or his playmat, even a bath didn’t help.

No, he was just crying… a lot.

“I want daddy hugs.” (Again, if no show, blame instagram)

Then I had a strange idea – I sat down on the couch and held him in my arms without walking around or bouncing him. Almost immediately, he went quiet and, even stranger, started to squeeze my sides and closed his eyes. This may seem boring and common, but this was something he had never done before.

In a short period of time, he seemed to have fallen asleep, and I thought, “great! He’s asleep, I can put him down and help mommy with cleaning the house.”

Nope. The moment I put him aside, he immediately returned to inconsolable unhappiness. so, I would pick him up again, he would squeeze and then fall asleep.

After a half-hour or so of this (passed by playing Candy Crush and reading Zite on my iPhone.), I wanted to actually get some work done. So, I asked mommy to come and take him, foolishly thinking it was just the warmth of my body calming him down.


Inconsolable sadness.

He clearly wanted his daddy for Father’s Day.

This could all be coincidence and just lucky timing, but I wonder, deep down, if perhaps he just knew somehow. It was Daddy’s Day, Daddy is his hero, so he wanted to spend as much time with me as possible.

And to be honest, I enjoyed every moment of it.


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Correlation v. Causation

For many many years, I’ve been told that if I just go and work out more, I’ll be happier, or at least I’ll be less depressed. There is study after study that shows that people who work out more are happier in life.

And I believed it, because whenever I could get myself to actually wake up early and work out every morning I felt better for that time. Whenever I could convince myself to go and do my weight lifting routine 3 times a week, I generally wasn’t depressed.

However, I never took into consideration the biggest possible statistical mistake I could’ve made given the data. Correlation does not imply causation. I find it hard to work out or do those things when I’m depressed, hence I don’t work out unless I’m already in a state where I am starting to feel better or less depressed and thus able to get myself up and lifting weights.

Yes, there’s an endorphin high from weights, but there’s also an equivalent endorphin high from eating delicious chocolate ice cream, but no one suggests that as a cure to feeling depressed.  So what is happening? Well, naturally popular education has a consistent and persistent bias towards items which will “make our lives better,” and confirm existing items we’ve been taught.

We are told that working out is good for us, so we all try to find confirmation of that in any way possible. Even if it’s simply correlation.

We want to believe that being fit makes us happier, and possibly it does. However, the fact that people who work out are happier doesn’t imply that working out makes you happy. It just implies that once you get over that depressive slump which keeps you from working out, you are a happier individual.


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