The freedom principle for today is that the freedom to choose is a key to happiness. Every human being longs to be happy, but few know that their happiness is determined by their choices. All people – rich or poor, old or young, male or female, black or white - seek happiness, and they search for happiness through different ways. Some choose drugs or alcohol while others choose service to others and still others choose other ways.
An ancient American prophet named Lehi taught his people, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:25). In other words, one of the purposes for our life on earth is to be happy. Our search for happiness is backed up by science.
A few months ago, Hank Smith, a seminary instructor, author, and a popular youth speaker, spoke about happiness during BYU Education Week. He has studied extensively about happiness and titled his presentation “The Science of Happiness.” He explained that according to Dr. Martin Seligman, the number one contributor to happiness is the quality of a person’s social circle.
Through the technology of the MRI, mankind determined that happiness is located in the frontal lobe. Brother Smith explained that the right side of the frontal lobe lights up with a person is really sad, and the left part of the frontal lobe lights up when a person is happy. The two emotions of happiness and sadness are located in different places in the brain.
Brother Smith explained meditation is one way to cause the left frontal lobe to come alive. “Meditation will fire up the left frontal lobe and flood your brain with dopamine.” He also explained that happiness is influenced by three factors: 50 percent genetics, 10 percent circumstances, and 40 percent the activities a person chooses to do.
Kate Bratskeir is a happiness researcher. She took data from multiple studies about happiness over the past 40 years and put together her list of “The Habits of Supremely Happy People.” Brother Smith shared ten things that supremely happy people do.
1. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.
2. Happy people try to be happy. When happy people don’t feel happy, they cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.
3. Happy people spend money on others more than they spend on themselves. Givers experience what scientists call the “helper’s high.”
4. Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.
5. Happy people use laughter as a medicine. A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters. A study showed that children on average laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.
6. Happy people use the power of music. Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.
7. Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet. Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression.
8. Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside. Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.
9. Happy people get enough sleep. When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgment.
10. Happy people are spiritual.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was always very positive and encouraged others to look on the bright side of things. Samantha Shelley compiled a list of ten principles for being happy taught by President Hinckley.
1. The purpose of life is to be happy! Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. Adam fell so that we might have joy! Don’t forget that when life gets busy or stressful or overwhelming. If you aren’t happy, you probably need to make some changes so you will be!
2. Happiness cannot be achieved if we are selfish or constantly complaining! Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others…. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves. Complaining can be … really detrimental to our happiness.
3. God is in charge when we are righteous so always stay positive! It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.
4. We should set realistic goals for ourselves – not impossible ones that will make us feel like failures. Aim high, but do not aim so high that you totally miss the target. Know what truly matters and what doesn’t – you’ll be a lot happier and more fulfilled.
5. Never underestimate the value of laughing. In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, and be someone who sees the humor in different situations. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great purpose in heart.
6. Pray. Let us never forget to pray. God lives. He is near. He is real. He is not only aware of us but cares for us. He is our Father. He is accessible to all who will seek Him.
7. Improve your attitude. Specifically, be less negative and more positive. Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. Whining about a problem will only make it worse. Positive people are always the best to be around.
8. Happiness requires work. The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served. You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.
9. Study things that matter. You can be smart and happy or stupid and miserable… it’s your choice. The glory of God is intelligence, and God has eternal happiness. So if we want to be like Him, we need to make the effort to gain intelligence.
10. Read more. It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book… from the reading of `good books’ there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way. President Hinckley spoke a lot about the importance of reading good books.
Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, gave an interesting TED talk titled “The Surprising Science of Happiness.” He explained that our “psychological immune system” enables us to feel truly happy even when bad things happen to us. “Synthetic happiness is when we get what we want. Natural happiness is what we get when we don’t.”
Remember, “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” We can improve our happiness by the choices we make, by the things we do, and by accepting the things we cannot change. The freedom to choose is an important key to being happy.