For many of us living the fast-paced Silicon Valley life, happiness can feel elusive. Although the American dream was built on the assumption that we all are collectively and actively engaged in the pursuit of happiness, the truth is that we often find ourselves hopelessly lost in that pursuit.
The Atlantic recently published an interesting piece entitled “Why So Many Smart People Aren’t Happy.” In the article, author Joe Pinsker shares an enlightening interview with Raj Raghunathan (author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?) about the paradox we’re probably all too familiar with: that the more accomplished we are, the less likely we are to be satisfied with our lives.
This paradox is what makes the need for a real relationship with God apparent. Our 2016 Expo (taking place on the weekend of July 29th in Santa Clara!) is entitled “Happy,” because happiness is what God knows best and what we are in need of the most. It’s what Jesus preached constantly – his life exuded it, despite undergoing constant persecution and challenges. We want to live happy lives, and God knows the formula for how to do it.
With that in mind, here are 8 simple steps that will make you happier in life.
1) Take care of your health: exercise, sleep and eat well
Some of you say, “We can do anything we want to.” But I tell you that not everything is good for us.
1 Corinthians 6:12 CEV
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Psalm 127:2 NLT
My friends can vouch for this—I’m most cranky when I’ve gotten little sleep or I’m hungry (though mostly the latter). Even psychology backs this up; Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a pyramid that outlines the steps towards self-actualization, and the foundation of the pyramid consists of physiological needs.
The research is self-evident: pursuit of happiness in life becomes extra challenging, if not impossible, when you can’t (or refuse to) meet your most basic physical needs. I can’t even count how many times people (friends and coworkers alike) have told me to take better care of myself. Pretending to not hear them sort of works … that is, until the lecturer shoves a plate of microwaved lunch in my face and forces me to put whatever I’m doing aside so I can eat.
Reading Scriptures like these has made me realize that when I neglect my health, I become a really unhappy person, and I also end up aggravating the people who care so much about me.
Yes, I do like staying up late, and no, I don’t like exercise in the least, but the real question is: am I willing to sacrifice being comfortable for being happy? Are you?
To reverse your bad habits, find people to hold you accountable and follow the next step: create a consistent sleep/eating/exercise routine and stick to it. You might not be a kid anymore, but it’s still smart to give yourself a reasonable bedtime.
2) Set up goals and a schedule
 So be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps. Don’t run around like idiots as the rest of the world does. Instead, walk as the wise!  Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times.
Ephesians 5:15-16 Voice
Life becomes hectic (more than it already is) when there is minimal structure. This scriptures says “to be mindful of your steps,” meaning to have some sense of direction in where you’re heading. If all you do is live by instinct and what you feel like doing, you might just wake up to find yourself in a roadside ditch (literally or figuratively, you decide).
Sit down on Sunday and plan out what you’re going to do this next week. Brainstorm and choose for yourself practical academic/social/physical/spiritual goals that you want to achieve by the end of the summer or year. It doesn’t have to be checklisty or monotonous; make it personal and exciting. It feels good when you go after a goal and attain it!
3) Get everything off your chest
Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit.
Psalm 32:2 GNT
Read all of Psalm 32. David describes the deadly effects of his deceit—you can probably relate to the bottled-up feeling he felt, when all your strength is “sapped as in the heat of summer.”
I know I’ve felt it. There are plenty of times when I lie to the people closest to me. I feel super guilty for about a week straight. It’s like an invisible, emotional weight that compels me to avoid them and act innocent, despite knowing that I’m clearly not.
What are the burdens on your conscience? Get them out in the light and receive instant joy.
4) Forgive and forget
[14-15] Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you.
Matthew 6:14-15 TLB
If you were a “happiness” detective trying to catch “killjoy” criminals, you’d have to make sure to apprehend bitterness—when you just don’t want to forgive someone.
Your resentment is a black hole, a foul smell, like kryptonite to Superman if Superman were happiness. Bitterness consumes both your happiness and the happiness of those around you. Hebrews 12:15 says that bitterness, if not overcome, will “cause trouble and defile many.”
Sometimes forgiving someone feels impossible, but is it really? I get bitter at my siblings for causing family drama. What right do I have, though, to let myself simmer in utter contempt? I am regularly rude to people and talk back to my superiors; I’m no perfect person. Take a look at yourself: are you faultless? Have you never hurt another human being?
But maybe the person you can’t forgive is yourself. Well, then, maybe it’s time to shift your focus to God, the supreme giver of mercy, who is willing to forgive all of your errors and all of mine. He can’t grant you the contentment that comes with forgiveness if you’re still holding onto that third-grade grudge that’s currently controlling your life.
Make an effort to resolve with the person you know you need to talk to and forgive. Get advice and support from others so that you can go into the conversation with a soft heart.
5) Build a family of real relationships
 No, we will speak the truth with love. We will grow to be like Christ in every way. He is the head,  and the whole body depends on him. All the parts of the body are joined and held together, with each part doing its own work. This causes the whole body to grow and to be stronger in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16 (ERV)
I’m most depressed when I’m alone, and I’m alone when I don’t have any real friends. But what is a ‘real’ relationship?
Well, we should all know what a fake friend is. A fake friend is me acting nice around a guy, and talked behind his back when away from him. A fake friend is disloyal, two-faced, untrustworthy. A fake friendship is artificial and destructive, especially when you don’t see how fake the relationship has become.
What is a real friend for you? For me it’s a person I can totally be honest with and be myself around. This scripture suggests that there’s more to it: a real friend speaks the truth in love, and a real friend does his/her work to build another up.
Build your family! It doesn’t have to solely consist of blood-related relatives. Pick the three friends you’re going to make your closest relationships with. Communicate that you want both of you to be real with each other, to point out any truth either of you see in the other and to encourage each other daily (make a card, give kind words, share a scripture, hang out with, get open with, ask what kind of friend they need you to be, etc.—Hebrews 3:13). Having these types of friends will make you a more loving and happier person.
6) Appreciate what you have
 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
To keep this one simple: when you lose gratitude, you become really anxious. I get worried about my future a lot, and I lose sleep, and I never take a break from work, and I isolate, and I stop living in the moment. When I realize that I’m lucky to even be getting the experience that I’m getting, to have the academic abilities I have and to know God, who’s got a beautiful plan set out for me, I am at peace.
Write up a list of 50, 75 or 100 things/people/talents/weaknesses you have to be thankful for. Be specific!
7) Give back to the community
Anyone who gives a lot will succeed. Anyone who renews others will be renewed.
Proverbs 11:25 (NIRV)
The University of Exeter Medical School analyzed 40 published studies and found that when comparing volunteers to their peers who don’t volunteer, volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death. Additionally, researchers discovered that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.
To follow both the science and the scripture, start serving at an E-Sports program (our flagship community service project) or find a local place to volunteer at. Get involved and reap the benefits (happiness is a byproduct!).
8) Develop a genuine friendship with God
 Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land and be safe.  Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.
Psalm 37:3-4 (GNT)
I can be content in any and every situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength.
Philippians 4:13 (VOICE)
Ultimately, according to the bible, God is the only one who can give you permanent happiness. It feels great to finish a project or to make lasting memories with friends or to start dating, but none of that joy will stand the tests of time and circumstance.
God is a friend who will never let you down. With him, and him only, you can do the impossible. You can be a entirely new person. You can live a life full of impact and not just find fulfillment in heaven (where I’ve never been) but on Earth throughout the duration of your life. I don’t think happiness is so much a destination as it is a journey. If you’re not a Christian, talk to one and make the decision to study the bible. A relationship with God isn’t just rules and no fun; God wants to give you the desires of your heart.
If you are a Christian, is God just another one of your fake friends? Go on a the longest prayer walk you’ve ever been on, one where you actually connect with God, and don’t you dare stop until God becomes real again. This is a friendship you’ll never want to lose.