Book of Mormon Project 2014. My thoughts on Happiness:
Happiness. We spend our whole lives searching for it. It’s on our mind every day. We do crazy things, absurd things, all with the excuse “It makes me happy”. But what is happiness? Dictionary.com describes happiness as “The state of being happy. Pleasure; contentment; joy.” This might satisfy some people, but I think happiness is much more complicated. What is happiness?
Deciding to be happy
The world tells us how to be happy. You need a better car, better grades, more money, or a more successful job. Some people search for happiness in more detrimental ways such as drugs or alcohol. Although the hormones released in the brain make you feel “happy”, that happiness is fleeting and makes it even harder to find true happiness in the future. I heard a quote once that said “drinking is just borrowing happiness from tomorrow.” Like debt, once you’ve started, it’s hard to pay back what you’ve already spent.
Most of us probably aren’t as extreme as the Nephites, and may cross paths with happiness many times, perhaps you can remember earlier this week when you felt truly happy, but are you still happy now? Happiness, takes dedication, regular assessment, hard work, and a certain mind-set. Choosing to run the trail of happiness might be hard at first; there are changes in elevation, rocks in the path, and pain in parts of the body you never knew existed. But you can do it. Abraham Lincoln said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Health and Happiness (Physical)
There are 6 main health aspects that can lead to happiness. First and most important is sleep. During the 6th to 8th hour of sleep serotonin and dopamine are replenished in the brain. Not getting the right amount of sleep can lead to problems with anxiety and depression. By getting the right amount of sleep you can increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin in your brain thus increasing your level of happiness up to 25%. (Basil 2014)
Next important is hydration. Staying hydrated allows your brain to receive adequate blood supply and fully function. (Heat Illness, 2012) Water makes up 50-60% of your body weight. You lose about 2 quarts each day through breathing, sweating, etc. Because you lose 2 quarts a day, it’s important to replenish your water supply by drinking 2 quarts every day.
Nutrition, closely linked to hydration, also allows your body to function at its best. A healthy diet gives your more energy, helps you sleep, and compresses future morbidity. (Aldana 2005) The effects of a bad diet include energy loss, fatigue, diseases of choice, and weight gain. Diet STRONGLY predicts depression. Ezra Taft Benson said “Food can affect the mind, and deficiencies in certain elements in the body can promote mental depression.” (Benson 1974)
Movement is another strong predictor of happiness. Studies have shown that exercise is a better treatment for depression than exercise combined with medicine or medicine alone. (Simons 1985) Exercise lowers your risk of sickness, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol. Exercise changes the way you look and changes the way you act; exercise makes you feel better. Movement changes mood! (Basil 2014) A famous study by F Strack showed how smiling, even without realizing it, makes your mood better To conduct his study, he had participants hold a pencil in their teeth forcing their face into a smile. Even though they weren’t really smiling, the shape of their face made them have better attitudes. Movement changes mood!
Breathing also effects happiness. There are two types of breathing- diaphragm breathing (or stomach breathing) and chest breathing (mouth/asthma breathing). Chest breathing is our body’s response to stress. Regular chest breathing leads to anxiety and depression. Be aware of your breathing “It is impossible to be anxious when your breathing is under control.” (Basil, 2014)
Lastly, your thoughts affect your happiness. Positive thinking really does make a difference, by channeling your thoughts in the right way you can reach your goals. By staying self-motivated you can accomplish more than you ever imagined. (Manning, 2010) Our thoughts affect everything we do. They can even affect our physical health. Boyd K Packer said “I recently asked a doctor of family medicine how much of his time was devoted purely to correcting physical disorders. He has a large practice, and after thoughtfully considering, he answered, ‘Not more than 20 percent. The rest of the time I seem to be working on problems that very much affect the physical well-being of my patients but do not originate in the body. ‘These physical disorders,’ the doctor concluded, ‘are merely symptoms of some other kind of trouble.’” Only 20% of his cases were physical, the remaining 80% were caused by thoughts. 80%! That’s huge! You don’t think you can control your thoughts? Let me give you an example- What you listen to makes a huge difference. Listening to Eminem in the car will definitely give you different thoughts than listening to the TAB choir. Controlling your thoughts might be easier than you expect. All of the other aspects of physical health that I mentioned are important for happiness, but if you don’t keep your thoughts in check, your spirit suffers. This leads us to our next section, spiritual health.
Health and Happiness (Spiritual)
The same 6 actions can lead to spiritual happiness: spiritual sleep, hydration, nutrition, movement, breathing, and thoughts.
Enos is a perfect example of finding spiritual rest. After pouring his soul out to God he asked if the Lamanites could one day receive the Book of Mormon. The Lord answered him and Enos said “I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; therefore my soul did rest.”(Enos 1:12) Praying about our worries can bring us spiritual rest.
Spiritual hydration is just as important as physical hydration. Jesus referred to himself as the “Living water”. I mentioned before that we are made 50-60% of water and require 2 quarts each day or we become dehydrated. We need 2 quarts of spiritual water each day or we become spiritually dehydrated. My first aid text book says “When you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Thirst is not a good guide for when to drink water. In fact, in hot and humid conditions, people could be so dehydrated by the time they become thirsty that they have trouble catching up with their fluid losses.” (Heat Illness 2012) Are you spiritually thirsty? Have you gotten your 2 quarts of Jesus today? Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, make sure you take time to drink throughout the day.
Spiritual Nutrition is just as important. We cannot skip the spiritual fruits and vegetables or we will become malnourished! I’m not saying spiritual desert is bad, but we cannot keep our spirit healthy by only eating cake. The Zoramites are a perfect example of only eating cake. They chose the parts of the gospel they liked and skipped the rest. They became spiritually malnourished. There are parts of the gospel you may not agree with or care about, but to be spiritually healthy you need to study all of it. Personally, I struggle reading the Old Testament, but the Old Testament is one of those spiritual vegetables and even though it’s hard to read, for spiritual health it’s necessary to study the Old Testament too.
Spiritual movement allows our spiritual muscles to grow. By exercising faith and following promptings, we strengthen our ability to hear the spirit. Nephi showed, not just physical strength, but incredible spiritual strength too. 1 Nephi 3:7 shows his spiritual strength when he said “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” Nephi probably wasn’t born with this incredible spiritual strength; he started out by following the small promptings which eventually let him have complete trust in God.
The spiritual equivalent of breathing would be monitoring the words you speak. Several times throughout the Book of Mormon, the phrase “breathed out threatening” is used. When you’re under stress you start chest breathing and in a lot of cases, you say things that you regret later. Similar to how I have to regularly correct my breathing, I have to correct my thoughts before I say something mean.
Controlling your thoughts affects both your spiritual and physical health. The effects on your spirit can be just as bad, if not worse, than the effects on your body. Thoughts lead to actions, and if we don’t weed out the bad thoughts, soon our thought garden on flowers will be overrun with weeds which will lead to actions we will later regret. This again brings up the question, how do we control our thoughts? If we live the gospel, we won’t have to, it will come naturally.
Desirable to Make One Happy
In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life it is evident that the fruit is necessary for happiness (1 Ne 8:10). Elder Holland taught that the tree is a symbol of Jesus Christ. He said, “The images of Christ and the tree are inextricably linked… At the very outset of the Book of Mormon, … Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfil his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them all to their eternal promises.” (Holland, 1997).
The gospel brings happiness. Moroni proclaimed to Zerahemnah “we have gained power over you by… the sacred word of God, to which we owe all our happiness” (Alma 44:5) The gospel principles we are taught provide a nurturing environment where we can learn how to be happy and how to share our happiness with others. Jacob said “if there be no righteousness there be no happiness” (2 Ne 2:13)
Happiness and Work
In the play Wicked, Glinda asks a simple question “Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true, isn’t it?” Apparently not. After betraying her best friend and being left by her fiancé, she realizes that happiness isn’t just having your dreams come true but MAKING them come true through hard work.
In 2 Nephi chapter 5 Nephi said “we lived after the manner of happiness.” (vs 27) By further analyzing the chapter we find that happiness wasn’t just handed to them, the worked for it. They did sow seed (vs 11), raise flocks and herds (vs 11), Nephi taught his people to build buildings (vs 15), to “work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and copper… etc” (vs 15), they built a temple (vs 16), they were industrious and labored with their hands (vs 17), and they observed and kept ALL the judgments, statutes, and commandments of the Lord in ALL things (vs 10).
There is a similar situation is Alma 50 and again in 4 Nephi we see how working adds to your happiness. Their works didn’t just involve work benefiting themselves, they worked to help others.
Happiness through Service
Michael Jackson might not be the best role model, but in this song he made a good point. There are billions of people on this earth and every day each one of us has to decide if we’re going to help less fortunate people or pass them by. You might feel that it is other people’s responsibility to serve, but they are just like you. You might have what you believe are legitimate excuses such as health problems or poor finances, but I know that when you give what you can, the Lord will bless you even more. “Every Man recieveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey.” (Alma 3:27) “I tell ye these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) When we serve, God pours out his blessings onto us. The blessings of service far outweigh the sacrifices.
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions,” and as Alma said, “Our works will condemn us” at the last day (Alma 12:14). Service is necessary for happiness now and happiness in eternity. “If ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail- but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever;” (Moroni 7:46)
Happiness in Learning
It’s easy to do small acts of service such as holding doors or putting spare change in donation jars, but how can you do bigger acts of service that will really make a difference and bring happiness to you and others? A friend shared with me the following analogy: Before flying, airplane staff is required to go over safety instructions. They will often say something like “In the event of decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally… If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person...” (“Inflight Passenger Announcements”) Before helping others, you need to help yourself. One rule in first aid says “You cannot help another person if you also become a victim.” (Action at an Emergency 2012) The same principle applies to service- you need to prepare yourself before larger acts of service. How do you prepare yourself? By gaining knowledge you can directly help others or, by becoming financially secure through a healthy career you open up new opportunities to serve without making yourself a victim too. My parents have made sure they are financially secure so that they can one day serve a mission together without any financial problems.
Currently I am in college with hopes of going into medicine. I hope to one day move to Africa to promote health. My learning will not only help me establish a secure financial foundation, but by sharing what I’ve learned in the future I hope to be able to change lives.
Knowledge does more than help us serve; learning is satisfying and brings another kind of happiness. Making connections between classes makes me excited to learn more. Multiple studies have shown that wisdom is one main predictor of well-being later in life. (Bianchi, 1994; Hartman, 2000) The For the Strength of Youth says “Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. He wants you to educate your mind and to develop your skills and talents, your power to act well in your responsibilities, and your capacity to appreciate life… Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you.” Education is essential in our quest to become like God. Jacob says “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12)
Pass it On
True happiness won’t come easily, but nothing of great worth ever will. We can take these steps to become happier. With physical and spiritual health in mind, we can put on our oxygen masks and then help others too. I believe that one person can change the world and that person can be you. If you believe in Christ, you can one day “dwell… in a state of happiness which hath no end.” (Mormon 7:7)Happiness is real and attainable; all we have to do is turn to Christ.
Action at an Emergency. In (2012). First Aid, CPR, and AED (6th ed., p. 354). Sudbury, MA: World Headquarters.
Aldana, S. (2005). The culprit and the cure. Mapleton, UT: Maple Mountain Press.
Basil, M. (Speaker) (2014, 03 22). Developing the Physical Strength to Testify of Christ. [Audio podcast].
Benson, E. T. (1974, Oct). Do not despair. October 1974 lds general conference , Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1974/10/do-not-despair?lang=eng
Bianchi, E., (1994). Elder wisdom: Crafting your elderhood. New York: Crossroad.
Hartman, P.S., (2000). Women developing wisdom: Antecedents and correlates in a longitudinal sample. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor.
Heat illness. In (2012). First Aid, CPR, and AED (6th ed., p. 354). Sudbury, MA: World Headquarters.
Holland, J. R. (1997). Christ and the new covenant. Deseret Book Company.
Simons, A. D. (1985). Exercise as a treatment of depression: An update. (Doctoral dissertation)