Of all the magazines I've ever read and all the subscriptions I've ordered, Reader's Digest is by far at the top of my list. In the latest issue, an article entitled "Joy" snagged my attention. Based on the research of Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist and researcher on happiness, five things topped the list of pursuits: commitment, little things, going to church, giving, and investing in experiences. He encouraged couples to marry--not just live together. Doing so will make them happier because they are more secure in the commitment of the relationship. (duh, right?) He also said that it's the little things--not the bigger aspirations--that really bring pleasure--that walk in the park with your spouse, not the major recognition at work. Going to church is really about living in community with others, knowing that someone cares. And investing in other's lives reaps more benefits in our spirits as the giver. Gilbert encourages people to choose the vacation over the car as "experience is almost always a greater determinant of happiness than things are. [...] if you are going on vacation, odds are somebody's going with you. And when we are connected well to others, we feel most happy." (I can personally attest to this benefit as growing up, family vacations were habitual and a foundation of many relational, bonding memories).
So ultimately, our happiness rests on how well we are connected to the people around us (not our jobs, our big toys, our house, or even our health). And deeper still, our happiness (and true inner joy) comes from our connection to God. How much of our thoughts, attitudes, and words are responsive to His spirit living within us? Are we listening as one in real community with God's spirit?