Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The What-Went-Well Exercise

Want to start feeling happier? Maybe even approach the verge of joy? Perhaps the What-Went-Well Exercise, as described in Martin E. P. Seligman's book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, will help.

We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance ("My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today"), but they can be important ("My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy").

Next to each positive event, answer the question "Why did this happen?" For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write "because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes" or "because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store." Or if you wrote, "My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy," you might pick as the cause "God was looking out for her" or "She did everything right during her pregnancy."

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

Truth is...you've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with Mister In-Between. (Johnny Mercer)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Semi-archeological Find

Every so often, I need to clean out my billfold. (This is a noteworthy event, because I generally don't have any bills [dollar bills, at least] to fold, so I'm free to stick receipts and shopping lists and who-knows-what-else in there.)

During my most recent attempt at billfold organization, I found a note I had written on the back of an offering envelope from my home church. It was a quote from the sermon preached there during my last visit. (I'm not sure if the preacher was quoting someone else, but for now I can only assume it was original with him, so I give credit and thanks to Greg Comp.)

Herewith, the statement that had grabbed my attention and moved my pencil:

When Jesus asked "Who do you say I am," he wasn't concerned with his image or popularity. He was concerned about his disciples.

It's an important point.

Jesus never needed to fish for compliments or ask for validation of his ego. He knew exactly who he was, where he was from, and why he came. His concern and deepest desire was for those whom he loved to know those things as well, and with that knowledge, enter into a saving relationship with his father.

Truth is...what experts and critics say about Jesus is still absolutely unimportant compared to who you say he is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oh Remorse! Remorse!

Our text today, flock, is found in the gospel according to Bill Waterson...in other words, the much-missed comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes.

The story opens with our hero, Calvin, gleefully attacking Susie with a water balloon.

But look...the lad has apparently seen the error of his ways.

But just as apparently, Susie doesn't believe Calvin is actually all that remorseful.

Now, while I'm pretty sure Yahweh doesn't hand out retribution as swiftly as Susie Derkins, I'm also fairly confident the Lord of the Universe isn't fooled by our "oops, I did it again" play-acting at repentance, either.

Truth is...we are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:2)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Laughing Yourself To Health

According to this excerpt from Louis R. Franzini's book, Just Kidding: Using Humor Effectively, laughter just may actually be the best medicine.

Steve Wilson, an Ohio psychologist and self-proclaimed "joyologist," launched the World Laughter organization in 1998 after meeting Indian gurus who were advocating laughter...as a road toward health and peace....

Laughter clubs are organized by trained and certified laughter leaders anywhere for any sized group that can meet one or more times. What is unusual is that the group participates in a variety of laughter exercises for which there is no humor stimulus. The participants laugh loudly as a group, simply upon instruction to use different laughter sounds and cadences. They, and any observers who may come along (if the group has gathered in a public place such as poolside or the lobby of a hotel), just laugh heartily. Capitalizing on the laughter contagion effect, soon everyone within earshot is also laughing.

It is an amazing phenomenon. People in a dire or sober mood, who are preoccupied with their own personal problems, who fear for their business's success or the nation's future or a family member's illness or whatever issue is on their mind, all temporarily forget those stressors and laugh along with everyone present, friends or strangers. All are laughing and all quickly feel good. It's simple, it's bonding, it's stress reducing, it's physically relaxing, it's free, and it's legal!

Truth is...according to Proverbs 17:22, "a cheerful heart is good medicine." According to laughter clubs, it's good even if you have to fake it till you make it.