December 2, 2021

House Call

Q:There’s so much negativity these days that it’s affecting even our children. Can you give us and our church family some happy news?

A:Yes, we can! Like you, we’re pained to see the mood of our biological and church families become poisoned by toxic attitudes and actions regardless of the justification. Studies about the ill effects of negative emotional states abound, but there’s strong evidence that happiness, optimism, gratitude, hopefulness, contentment, and other positive states don’t just make us feel good—they are good for us individually and collectively. God knew all along that a joyful heart is good medicine! (Prov. 17:22).

The longest-running “happiness” study revealed that close relationships—more than money or fame—keep people happy throughout their lives. Just like eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep, tending to our relationships is a form of self-care. Healthy marriages and social ties protect us from life’s curveballs and disappointments, increase our resilience, and help to delay mental and physical decline. Having robust social linkages is a better predictor of a long, happy life than social class, education, or family history.

Here are some ways to increase positive emotions:

  • Create or join a group of happy, godly people. Happiness and true godliness are contagious.
  • Develop and cherish close, loving relationships. Loneliness is as toxic as alcohol or tobacco.
  • Keep a clean, clear conscience. Tell yourself the truth to eliminate self-deception.
  • Intentionally perform acts of kindness. Doing good and volunteering have health and social benefits.
  • Engage in wholesome activities that brought you joy when you were younger.
  • Satisfy God’s conditions, claim His promises, and give Him praise.
  • Learn to value people, and practice putting people above things.
  • Find reasons to laugh with people rather than at people. Esteem others better than yourself.
  • Spend time outdoors and in nature, especially in green spaces, and create green spaces around you, such as windows, porches, terraces, and even corners of the room.
  • Smile!
  • Spend time and money on people rather than on gadgets.
  • Invest in experiences (e.g., family vacations; visits to relatives and friends). Acquiring “things” can make you happy temporarily, but experiences bring greater, lasting joy.
  • Count your blessings; cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Every night as you prayerfully review your day, mentally or physically make a short list of things you’re thankful for.
  • Deeply breathe the air in the forest, at the seashore, or after a thunderstorm for mood and immune benefits.
  • Don’t share or receive gossip.
  • Take care of a pet or plant.
  • Memorize Scripture and be inspired.
  • Play or listen to uplifting music; sing songs of joy and hope.
  • Seek to be an inspiration to others.

Happiness protects the body and the brain. Close social interaction increases joy. Negativity is like cancer or a plague. Invite the Holy Spirit to take over; yield to Him and really get to know Him, whom to know is life eternal. And “be of good cheer, [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.