Not long after those words were written they were put to the test as the Warrens’ adult son took his own life after a long battle with mental illness. The family grieved deeply, of course, and shared those emotions with the world. But Kay Warren’s positive outlook was not diminished.
If her joy had been based on circumstances, it certainly would have evaporated in the face of overwhelming grief. But it didn’t disappear because it was based on a positive outlook and a complete faith in God.
Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that adults can adjust their own feelings of happiness. “Antidepressants don’t make people happier, they just decrease negative emotions,” according to psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California-Riverside. She argues that up to 40 percent of our happiness “is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in—the things that we do and think every day of our lives.”
Lyubomirsky has found that people can actually force themselves to feel joy. While it is true that about half of our feelings of happiness or unhappiness results from our genetic makeup, most of the rest can be controlled through our daily thoughts and actions. “Research is showing pretty convincingly now that happiness is really within us, it’s not outside of us,” said Lyubomirsky. “It’s in what we do. It’s sort of how we act, how we think every day of our lives.”
“The greatest discovery of any generation,” said psychologist William James, “is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” You can make a choice for joy in your life. And I would quickly add that the greatest joy is the joy of sins forgiven by our Lord and Savior.
What about you? How do you rise above your circumstances and choose to have a positive outlook? I’d love to hear your answer on Facebook or Twitter.
. Kay Warren, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Revell, 2012), 21–22.
. Michael Mendelsohn, “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness” ABC News, January 11, 2008, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4115033&page=1.
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