‘You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ – Acts 2:28
So what is “emotional abundance?” Happiness, of course! When people were referred to as “blessed” in the Old and New Testaments they were, in effect, saying that they were enviable, fortunate, and most importantly happy. That is why the Hebrew word ‘esher and the Greek term makarios meaning “blessed” are used interchangeably with the word “happy” throughout the Bible. Time and time again, God lays out the road map to happiness through stories, proverbs, and commandments. The Book of Proverbs is used extensively in offering sage advice on how to achieve emotional abundance. Finding wisdom, guarding our mouth, and watching our hearts are timeless keys to happiness.
- How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. (Proverbs 3:13, 17-18)
- With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18: 20-21)
- ·Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Happiness: The American Dream
Assuming that the American Dream still rings true for most people, let’s take a closer look at what contributes to emotional abundance.
Positive Psychology – a branch of psychology that studies effective interventions to help build thriving individuals, families, and communities – has done extensive research on what makes people happy. Research has suggested that 50% of our happiness levels are determined by a genetic set point/range, 40% by our intentioned actions, and only 10% by life’s circumstances (e.g. income, social status, place of residence, age). Taking into effect the science of epigenetics and our ability to turn on and off certain genes, it appears that the 50% subject to genetics can be “altered” or modified by our thoughts and actions. Thus, it remains to be seen that up to 90% our ability to be happy is completely contingent on us.
According to a recent Gallup World Poll, people can expect to live 28 years longer in the happiest nations. These are generally places where people have their own internal standards and are satisfied in their work – using their skills, mastering a career, and loving what they do. Generally, these are not places where there is social competition or excessive materialism, regardless of affluence. Economic growth, however, does not necessarily drive up emotional abundance. When money buys someone out of the burdens of homelessness, then money can in effect, “buy happiness.” But once basic needs are met money has little to do with happiness.
Strong, healthy social relationships are the one common denominator of all the happiest places on earth. Other contributing factors to happiness include the following: life satisfaction; doing activities we love; loving other people; using skills; constantly learning; curbing anger and negativity; having life goals that are bigger than yourself; having more green space; and short commutes.
An interesting finding from research is that raising children does not contribute to happiness or sadness. Research shows that if someone desires to have children, then child rearing will bring great happiness. Whereas, if someone does not like children and the responsibilities associated with raising them, then child rearing will contribute to sadness.
As Benjamin Franklin once stated, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
- Shadyac T (Producer), & Belic R (Director). (2001). Happy [Motion picture]. United States: Documentary.
Health coach, life coach, author and speaker, Eric L. Zielinski is a Chiropractor who continues to seek out ways to influence the world toward achieving the Abundant Life. Eric’s work can be seen in a wide variety of venues including Christian, health/wellness, and academic peer-reviewed literature. Eric lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife Sabrina and three children.