American advertising companies thrive off the consumer belief that the key to happiness lies in being rich, successful, and beautiful. Many people are convinced that losing weight, getting a job promotion, or purchasing a bigger house, for example, will lead to more happiness. However, a new book by best-selling author Martin Thielen lays these myths to rest, revealing that external circumstances only account for 10 percent of a person’s overall life satisfaction. In Searching for Happiness: How Generosity, Faith, and Other Spiritual Habits Can Lead to a Full Life (Westminster John Knox Press), Thielen uses psychological research, anecdotal evidence, and Scripture to outline ten practices that actually can help readers find happiness.
Thielen argues that habits like focusing on the present, nurturing relationships, and using trials as growth opportunities are more effective at increasing a person’s overall contentment level. Instead of aiming to make more money, Thielen suggests working on the ability to forgive, to express gratitude, and to be generous. Thielen doesn’t pretend that the search for happiness is always easy, and he isn’t unrealistic about the adversities most people will face throughout life. “We are all broken in some ways, and sometimes we lose our joy,” he writes in his conclusion. “However, by engaging in the ten . . . practices confirmed by science, Scripture, and experience, we . . . can find renewed contentment in our lives.”
Searching for Happiness features a guide for group or individual study, which includes questions for reflection and challenges for readers to try as they embark on their quest to find happiness.
Martin Thielen is author of the best-selling What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? and The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion. He is Senior Pastor of Cookeville United Methodist Church in Cookeville, Tennessee.