As a Christian counselor, I’ve repeatedly asked myself two questions:

What makes people deep down happy?

Why, even as believers living with many privileges and blessings, do we feel grumpy, stressed, guilty, depressed, and disappointed so much of the time?

Everybody I know wants to be happy or happier. But actually feeling happy for any sustained period of time is not as easy as we may think.

As a counselor, I am well aware that many things are not as they should be and sometimes living in this world is excruciatingly painful. It might be unrealistic to think that we can be happy all of the time. But there are definitely some things we can learn so that we can be a happier person more of the time.

For example, did you know that just the way you talk about your emotions can play a big part in your ability to let go of them? Next time you’re feeling angry or hurt about something, instead of saying, “I feel so angry” or “hurt“, say it this way. “I’m aware that I’m feeling mad or hurt.

This small change can make a big difference. Now you have your feelings instead of your feelings having you. Creating this little bit of space gives you the chance to decide how you want to handle your feelings and helps you not to be overwhelmed or controlled by them.

In addition, the way we look at things affects our happiness levels. There’s a little poem that reads, “Two men looked out prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars.” The apostle Paul applied that truth to his own life. That’s how he experienced joy even while in prison.

Paul knew that life was hard, but he also counseled people not to dwell on the negative. Rather, he says,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

Recent studies in positive psychology confirm the truths of God’s word. It is good to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Research shows that those who regularly practice gratitude are happier people than those who are more prone to grumbling and complaining.

I used to think that it was God’s will for us was to be holy – not happy. I don’t believe that any more. God surely calls us to be holy but he also made us to be happy. Holiness and happiness are not opposites but part of a whole. Holiness leads to wholeness and wholeness leads to happiness.

Holy people are happy people. They have found their source of joy, peace, love and hope to be God and are living in sync with their created purpose.

Happiness is not simply a choice, it is also a skill that we need to learn and regularly practice in order to maximize our ability to experience it. Imagine how much happier you’d feel if you weren’t stuck in your negative emotions, bad moods, or difficult life circumstances.

I am finally learning how to be a happier person, and you can too.