10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Happiness

In 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Happiness, Beth Belle Cooper wrote:

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

In summary:

  1. Exercise more: 7 minutes might be enough
  2. Sleep more: You’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions
  3. Move closer to work: A short commute is worth more than a big house
  4. Spend time with friends and family: Your relationships are worth more than $100,000
  5. Go outside: Happiness is maximized at 13.9 C
  6. Help others: 100 hours a year is the magic number
  7. Practice smiling: It can alleviate pain
  8. Plan a trip: but don’t take one
  9. Meditate: rewire your brain for happiness
  10. Practice gratitude: Increase both happiness and life satisfaction

If you read the whole article, you’ll be amazed at the fascinating science behind each of these suggestions. In a way it shouldn’t surprise us because many of the ideas are Christian virtues and others are respectful of the limitations God built into our humanity. However, I’d question how lasting these happiness plans are, especially as old age takes over. And then there’s judgment and eternity. What then?

Every Christian would want to begin this list with “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.” Of course, that happiness strategy cannot be scientifically proven (Heb. 11:1). But we have something much surer than science to support and encourage us in this. We have the unchanging and reliable Word of God to assure us of God’s joy strategy throughout our lives and throughout eternity (John 15:11).

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6 Academic Resolutions for the New Year
Marc Cortez sends us back to school with “new year” resolutions.

Candid Pastoral Thoughts on Depression and Drugs
I’m more optimistic than Dan about the effectiveness of anti-depressants, but I appreciated the careful and compassionate way he expressed his concerns here, concerns which I also share. Over here, Bob Kellemen’s been dialoguing with a blog commenter about the difference/similarities between Biblical Counseling and a more integrated approach. It’s a profitable exchange.

Families, Flourishing, and Upward Mobility
James Smith: “One of the most powerful correlates with upward mobility is stability of family structure, including the presence of two-parent families, coupled with a strong presence of religious communities.”

Fascinating story about an African who came to the USA, came to faith, came to love the Puritans, and came to create a daily devotional App.

Christians, protect each other from busyness
Surely part of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

When you are broken
I’m not poetic enough to always follow Ann Voskamp’s posts, but there are some beautiful lines about aging here: “The point is that your life is meant to be used up and every wrinkle means you are wringing out the good of the wonder of this thing called life.”

Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law

In his exposition of 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, the puritan Richard Sibbes provides, in one glorious paragraph, a summary of his view of the relationship of Christ to all Scripture. He writes:

  • Christ is the scope of the whole Scriptures – from the first promise of the blessed seed, “The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head” (Gen 3:15), to the end of the book.
  • The Scriptures are nothing without Christ – law and gospel would be dead letters without Christ
  • Christ is “that Spirit” which gives life to all the Scriptures
  • Moses without Christ is but a shadow without a body, or a body without a soul.
  • Without Christ the brazen serpent, the ark, the sacrifices, and everything else are nothing because Christ is “all in all.”
  • The kings, priests, and prophets are all types of Christ
  • All the promises were made and fulfilled in Christ
  • The ceremonial law all aimed at Christ
  • The moral law drives us to Christ
  • Christ is the Spirit of all
  • The Scripture without Christ is but a mere dead thing; a shell without a kernel (p. 207).

Sibbes goes on to show how the covenant of grace under the gospel is more excellent that the administration of this same covenant in the time of the law. Notice that – Sibbes is not saying that the Old Testament was all law and the New Testament was all gospel. Rather he sees the gospel in both Testaments; but in the Old Testament, it is administered through more of a legal framework. He argues that the gospel has four excellencies in the New Testament compared with the time of the law:

1. In its scope: We all (all sound Christians) have eyes opened; all sorts of believers (Jews and Gentiles) behold His glory.

2. In its experience: We all with open face, freely, boldly, and cheerfully, look upon the glory of God in the gospel, as opposed to the bondage of ceremonies and of the law. ”In a great part they had little gospel and a great deal of law mingled with it. We have much gospel and little law. We have more freedom and liberty.”

3. In its clarity: We see Christ more clearly. We have the opportunity to see Christ in the glass of the Word and sacraments; they saw through a world of ceremonies; for them Christ was swaddled and wrapped up in a lot of types.

4. In its power: The Spirit works more strongly now; the veil has been taken away and believers are being changed from glory to glory.

I must admit it’s not always clear in what sense Sibbes is using “law” (is it the moral law? the ceremonial law? or is it the time of the law, the Old Testament?). However his basic point is clear, and he concludes by exhorting us to seriously consider the excellent time God has allowed us to live – a time in which we are able to see Christ better than our forefathers ever saw – and to respond to the Lord’s graciousness with thankfulness and obedience.

Sermon by Richard Sibbes: “Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law” from 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.  Excerpted from: Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 4:203-249.  Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2001.

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A Game Plan For Combatting Worry
You can find the previous three parts of this David Powlison series here.

Two for Twenty
Anthony Carter: “Recently someone asked me if I could share with him a couple of principles that have proved most beneficial in marriage these past twenty years.”

Sermons Are Not For Liking
TIm Challies hates the question: “Did you enjoy the sermon?” and suggests a couple of alternatives.

The $40,000 Mistake
Last weekend someone at Logos made a technical mistake that set web prices for dozens of products to zero. Customers purchased $40,000 worth of materials at zero cost. What happened next will surprise you.

Forgiven People Forgive
What a great modern illustration of Luke 7v42-27.

12 Myths About Calvinism
I’d rephrase some of this, but it could be a useful discussion starter with non-Calvinists.

Some Varied Vacation Reading

Apart from hearing an excellent sermon on my recent vacation, I also managed to get through a few books on my reading list.

Finally Free

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert
I read this hoping to get help in counseling others and found myself helped instead. Yes, this book will now be my first port of call when counseling porn addicts; but even for those of us who don’t struggle with this particular sin, this book’s wonderful gospel-centered focus will help us fight against all kinds of sin with the power of grace.

This is biblical counseling at its best: full of sympathy for sinners, courageous confrontation of sin, accessible biblical truth, the power of Christ’s grace, and radical dependence upon the Holy Spirit. There are just so many texts I want to preach upon now, always a reliable guide to the quality of a Christian book.

I’m no longer dreading  the next phone call or email from someone who has succumbed to porn, because with this book I now have eight grace-based strategies to offer needy sinners. Finally Free will liberate many lives and revitalize many marriages.

your-brain-at-workYour Brain At Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock.
Many of us are struggling to cope with information overload and digital distraction. Our brains feel fried at the end of a day, damaging our productivity, our health, our families, and our relationship with God. This book helps us to understand the science of what we are doing to our brains with our current work practices, and helps us to manage our limited mental resources in a healthier and happier way. Put simply, “Know your brain, transform your performance.”

The author follows a totally stressed-out couple as they try to cope with the digital deluge in their work settings. He analyzes their failings and then suggests alternative scenarios that would help them to work more efficiently and enjoyably. He also shows how knowing how our brains work and respond to pressure enables us to understand others better, resulting in better communication, collaboration, and long-term change.

bit-literacy-cvr-175Bit Literacy: Productivity in an Age of Information and Email Overload by Mark Hurst
On the same subject as Your Brain at Work, but a bit more basic with more emphasis on the practical. A good place to start if you want to pick up numerous tips on how to change bad the digital habits most of us have acquired into good habits that will improve our work and lives. If you want to learn how to better manage all the “bits” that swirl around your life – email, to-do lists, photos, files, etc., – begin here.

pastor's familyThe Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Brian and Cara Croft
I read the pre-publication version of this book a few months ago and provided this endorsement:

Realistic…Honest…Transparent…Spiritual…Practical.” These are the words that sprang to my mind as I read this unique book that will refresh many pastors’ souls, rescue many pastors’ marriages, transform many pastors’ families, and revive many pastors’ ministries.

Anyone familiar with Brain Croft’s growing ministry at PracticalShepherding.com will know that Brian has a huge heart for pastors and their families. He doesn’t speak down from lofty heights of pastoral perfection, but speaks beside us in the trenches of the pastoral battlefield.

This book addresses the pastor, his wife, and his children, and contains a number of useful appendices including “Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife” and “My Battle with Depression” by Brian’s wife, Cara. It’s one of those books that pastors and their wives should probably schedule to read every year.

kevin deyoungCrazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Speaking of books that should be read every year (if not, every month!), this book is a game-changer. We’re all familiar with Kevin DeYoung’s wonderful books on a range of theological issues – he’s probably my favorite Christian writer at the moment. However, I’m going to make a prediction that although this is the shortest book he’s written, and probably the least theological and the most practical, that it’s going to outsell all the others he’s written, and I hope do even more good.

It’s not that the book is untheological or lacking in biblical exposition – far from it. It’s more that he’s dealing with such a widespread everyday practical problem – our crazy busy everyday lives – and he does so in such an enjoyable and, yes, even entertaining way. There are so many people I want to give this book to, but I’ve got to start with myself. It’s one of those rare books that you walk away from saying not, “Oh, no I’ve got so much to do,” but “Oh, yes, I’ve got to stop doing so much!” The book itself won’t tax your time too much, subtitled as it is “A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.”

This townThis Town: Two Parties and a Funeral by Mark Leibovich
I’ve not finished this book, and I’m not sure that I will. It’s not so much the odd swear word here and there. It’s more the way that New York Times Magazine National Correspondent, Mark Leibovich, pulls back the curtain on Washington’s political and media elite and gives us a sniff of their dirty laundry. Although Leibovich is inviting us to laugh at him and other Washington insiders, as they back-slap, lobby, and trade influence on their way to the top, it actually gets quite sickening and depressing the more you read. If you want to have faith in politics to change America, don’t read this book, because you’ll become an apostate.

army-at-dawnAn Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa by Rick Atkinson
Another unfinished book – and at 768 pages I’m not sure I’ll ever reach the end – but one I was glad to at least begin reading. A beautifully written and deeply moving account of how the Allied forces began to liberate Europe and crush the Third Reich in North Africa in 1942-43. As usual with books of this nature, I was stunned at the sacrificial courage of the soldiers. I honestly just don’t know if I could do what they did. I was also shocked at the unpreparedness of the soldiers and sailors. The more you read, the more you realize that the North African victory was an act of God. The minimal training, the pathetic weapons, the half-baked plans, the communication meltdowns, and the egomaniacal generals and admirals, all mixed together should have spelled certain defeat.

But God.

That’s not to downplay the astounding valor of the servicemen. But nothing else can explain how such disastrous planning, equipping, and execution, was turned into such astonishing victory.

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Daily Pray For Your Wife Challenge
I’m a bit late to this, but even if you don’t follow day by day, Mike Leake’s challenge gives us many varied ways in which to pray for our wives.

Reading for Pastor/Elder Development
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Law and Gospel-Centered Parenting
“If we’re going to parent well, we must parent as God parents. And God speaks two languages in Scripture. As parents, we dare not stop pursuing fluency in the language of the gospel. But, perhaps, it’s time more of us learn to speak the language of law.”

A New Back-To-School Series
I’m looking forward to this series by Marc Cortez: “It’s August and it’s time to think about going back to school. So I thought it might be a good time to write a few posts on approaching school successfully. The idea is to highlight some key issues, share a few of my own thoughts, and call for suggestions from other students and teachers.”

Grace at Work in Dementia
Dave Jenkins draws six lessons from experiencing his dad’s dementia.

Why Your Church Needs More Variety in Your Sermons
And how to do it.