Optimistic + Grateful = How to Be Happy

Dr. Mark Baker

What does it take to be a happy person?  I’m going to give you two elements of happiness today and I’ll tell you upfront happiness is not the absence of suffering in your life but it’s the presence of certain qualities that you need to be happy. I’m going to tell you about two. The first is true optimism.  Now, there’s a difference between true optimism and false optimism.  True optimism is looking for the good in your circumstances, false optimism is based on fear.  False optimism is believing that things are going to work out fine no matter what true optimism says.  I don’t know how things are going to work out but I believe that God is with me in this and He’s going to be with me to get through this, and so I’m gonna look for the good in my circumstances.  

The second thing you need to really live a happy life is gratitude.  Now you know this verse from first Thessalonians 5 which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Now, did you hear what I said it says?  Give thanks in all circumstances – it doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances.  True gratitude is being able to find something to be grateful for in the midst of your circumstances, which might be terrible circumstances.  I am NOT grateful for all the circumstances in my life, because some of them are really bad but I really look for something to be grateful for in the midst of all my circumstances because that is what helps me be a happier person.  

Let me give you an example of that; I asked Dr. Fred Luskin to give a lecture on his work in the forgiveness project.  He’s the director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, which is the largest forgiveness project in the world, studying how people can learn to forgive.  He told us a story about a woman who had been brutally abused and had her child murdered and she was supposed to somehow figure out how to forgive the people who had done this to her.  Dr. Luskin realized that she first needed to learn gratitude before she could approach forgiveness, because her circumstances were so terrible, so he let her tell her story.  She told it until she couldn’t talk about it any further in horrible circumstances and then he got her to stand up and walk over and go towards the window.  It was a cold day in San Francisco and she felt just the sun on her face, she was able in that moment to be grateful for that one simple thing.  That beginning of gratitude was the beginning of her ability to restore the faith that maybe someday, she could forgive.  If she could be grateful for that one thing that maybe she could be grateful for other things.  This is what we’ve learned, that you have to have the capacity to find things to be grateful for in the midst of terrible circumstances in order for you to move towards happiness in life.  Neither Dr. Luskin nor the Bible is telling you to be grateful for all circumstances, they’re both telling you to figure out how to be grateful inall circumstances.  Happiness is not the absence of suffering in your life, happiness is the ability to find the presence of true optimism and gratitude in it.  

Did you know that the emotional part of your brain is many times faster than the thinking part of your brain?  That scientific fact led me to write my new book, Spiritual Wisdom for a Happier Life, How Your Eight Key Emotions Could Work For You.  I’m very excited to let you know that Revell is bringing that book here to the United States and publishing it in English because it has already been published in other languages and sold about 250,000 copies already.  I believe that if you can harness the power of those eight key emotions you’re gonna live a fuller and richer life, and be able to be in a more complete way the person that God has created you to be.

The myth of individuality

Join us at Brentwood Presbyterian Church on January 24 at 9:00 AM as we start a three part series on the importance of Christian community as a source of healing for emotional pain. Dr. Baker will begin by addressing the myth of individuality and explaining how we are all fundamentally relational beings.

Are People Basically Good, or Bad?

Dr. Mark Baker will be speaking this Sunday, February 1st at Brentwood Presbyterian Church on Why Good People do Bad Things, and Why Apparently Bad People can Do Very Good Things. We will be discussing real life examples of personal transformation from the largest maximum security prison in America at Angola, Louisiana.

Joni Eareckson Tada Conference

Join me, Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic and over 50 other speakers at the Global Access Conference—this February 17-20 in Westlake Village, CA . I am honored to be one of the workshop leaders again this year and would love to have you join me. To receive the lowest possible registration fee, use the priority code “guest” at globalaccessconference.org. Space is limited so don’t delay.

Can Men Change?

I just returned from the largest maximum security prison in the country located in Angola, Louisiana. The average sentence there is 90 years, so most of the men never leave. Because of the emphasis on moral rehabilitation of Warden Burl Cain, I witnessed an amazing number of lives transformed from murders, rapists and armed robbers to educated, spiritually sensitive men engaged in a community of change. Of course, this was not true of every man there, but the fact that it can happen at all is evidence that men can change. No matter how difficult your circumstances are, remember the 6,500 men serving life sentences in Angola. If men can change there, they can change anywhere.

I Loved Robin

My first response to the news of Robin Williams’ death was, “Oh no, I loved him”. Because of the brilliance of his humor he touched me in ways that made me think I really knew him. But, of course, I didn’t. He struggled in deep, personal ways that I never knew. Other people also struggle in ways that no one knows. If you are one of those people, don’t try to go through it alone. As a psychologist, I have listened to people share some of the most painful things imaginable, but they became slightly more bearable because by sharing them with me they were no longer alone. If the loss of Robin has made you aware of how alone you feel, I know some therapists who are waiting for your call.

Forgiving Others…And Yourself

Have you been hurt? Have your hurt someone else? Then you need to know how to forgive others, and especially yourself. I will explain exactly how to do this on Sunday February 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM at Brentwood Presbyterian Church. You are welcome to join us, and just like forgiveness even though it’s not cheap, it’s free.