Have you ever heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect”? Most of us have flashbacks to childhood and dreaded piano lessons, multiplication tables, or military-worthy athletic drills. Over and over we’d practice. Few, if any, of us ever attained the elusive “perfect”.
Although Nadia may have received a “Perfect 10” in gymnastics, no one is perfect. The perfect in “practice makes perfect” means “highest caliber”.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Psychologists use a 10 year / 10,000 hour rule: It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve an expert level at anything. Statistics show that the average world-class athlete trains hard 23 hours per week for 8 years before reaching their elite status (that’s 9,568 hours for anyone who isn’t perfect at multiplication tables, me included).
So what does this have to do with us?
As it turns out, many of us practice certain behaviors every day without even knowing it. Even during the holidays! And we’re getting really good at them. The problem is they’re not good for us. What are we practicing? Irritation, anger, bitterness, short tempers, frustration, fear, anxiety… and more. Day after day, we get overwhelmed with conflict and circumstances. We give in to emotions and lose our footing as the good examples we want to be. We’re no longer displaying the strong, positive person we know is inside of us.
But here’s good news: We can practice being happy! And not only does it work, but if we start now, it will carry us into the new year!
This isn’t a new concept. There have been all kinds of books and seminars along these lines–the power of positive thinking, you are what you believe, envision success, set various levels of goals. The simple truth is that with conscious effort, we can change our perspective and respond differently to everyday challenges and triggers.
Being “happy” starts with us.
The more we practice, the happier we become. The more we practice, the more our countenance and reactions are transformed until “happy”–displayed through peace, patience, hope and joy–is our primary nature.
How do we practice being happy? By practicing habits each day that lead to happiness:
1. Smiling–It’s contagious! And there are physical reasons why smiling leads to happy emotions. Read the Top 10 Reasons to Smile.
2. Love–Our core desire as humans is to feel loved. Loving others opens our heart to being loved. Love grows feelings of belonging and being accepted for who we are. The result of loving and being loved is joy and contentment.
3. Faith–Spending time with God each day in His Word and in prayer fills us with strength, peace and hope. We gain perspective and feel connected as we learn from our Heavenly Father. Through His Spirit we are transformed from the inside out and find joy in everyday situations.
4. Forgiveness–We don’t realize how much we refuse to forgive others because often our unforgiveness is buried deep in our subconscious. Forgiving others releases bitterness which is a cancer inside of us, freeing us to feel relieved and happy.
5. Thankfulness–Expressing thanks for the many blessings we have breaks down barriers in our mind and heart. It’s easy to get caught up in stresses of the day. But when we praise our Heavenly Father and show thankfulness to Him and to others, we think less about wanting or needing more to “be happy”.
6. Generosity–The old adage “It’s better to give than to receive” has merit. The more we try to hoard for ourselves, the more inward-focused and selfish we become. The more we give generously to others, the more our perspective changes and we share in the joy of helping others in their need.
7. Praise Music–Listening to praise music feeds our soul with Scripture and positive messages of God’s love, power and faithfulness. A CD or the radio is a quick way to lift our spirit as we turn our thoughts to God and sing praises to Him.
We’ll never be perfect, but practicing “happy” rewires our brain so our daily thoughts and reactions change. We feel happier as we grow in love, faith, forgiveness, generosity, hope and true joy. Not because our circumstances have changed, because we have changed.
Want to be happy? Practice “happy”! It’s contagious! And now you have a new meaning for HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them… Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ” Ephesians 4:29, 31-32 (NLT)
Let’s talk: What “happy” habit are you practicing today?
May I pray? Loving God, thank You for delighting in us and wanting us to live joy-filled lives. Help us today to see the areas where we’re bogged down with anger, frustration, bitterness and any other habits that keep us locked in disappointment and unhappiness. May we focus on new “happy” habits of smiling, loving, spending time with You in prayer and Your Word, forgiving, thanking, and giving. May we lay down our wants and desires for what will “make us happy” and instead practice being happy. In so doing, may Your joy fill us to overflowing and be contagious to everyone around us. And Lord, for those who are struggling this Christmas season, please fill them with an extra measure of Your peace and love. May they find comfort in You as they practice “happy” habits even in this difficult time. Amen.