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You Can Make Yourself Happy: Synthetic Happiness vs. Natural Happiness

There are two main types of happiness. Synthetic happiness, which is the type we make when we don’t get what we wanted, and natural happiness which is the type of happiness that comes when we get what we wanted or worked for.

Why should you care about understanding happiness? Well, regardless of what you do in life, you will face moments when you need to take charge of your happiness. This is especially true when you are in a leadership position or in ministry. For example, the ministry of caring for orphans can drain everything out of you. Because of the psychological trauma suffered in the past, orphans  are often very difficult to care for, ungrateful, tend to oppose authority, and may sometimes support your enemies to undermine your work in caring for them!

How to make yourself happy

We must learn to make ourselves happy. We need to be like the Israelite king, David, who “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” We need to learn to encourage ourselves within our own core beliefs, core values, and life purpose.

We need to develop the mindset that sees opportunities in our challenges and consider our trials as “pure joy.”

How can one see a trial as “pure joy”? When we focus on the opportunity for growth and advancement that the trial or challenge presents to us, not simply the pain that we must endure to get through it. Focusing on the rewards that we will gain in the end helps us be happy in the midst of our difficulties.

It will benefit us to obey the exhortation of the life-change teacher who urged his followers saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice“. Remember that was a positive command, not a suggestion. He was commanding his followers to make a decision, an act of the will, that he knew they could do and which would bring happiness in their lives.  This was essentially a command to synthesize their own happiness. To make themselves happy and not rely on the whims of circumstances for their happiness or joy.

Harvard psychologist and New York Times best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert,  says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong. He supports this premise with strong scientific research.

He says, in our culture, “we believe that synthetic happiness is not of the same quality as what we might call ‘natural happiness.’ I want to suggest to you that synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for.” That is, synthetic happiness is exactly like natural happiness in every way.

Gilbert says that we believe this lie that synthetic happiness is of a lesser quality because such a belief makes our economic system work. The capitalistic society in which we live thrives because we are taught to believe that buying something will make you feel better than if we didn’t. If we were taught to believe the truth that we can make ourselves feel the same exact quality and quantity of happiness without buying the product, not many people would buy the useless things that we often buy.

I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.” Sir Thomas Brown  wrote 1642

What is in us is greater than what is in the world.  The power we have within can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity.

Related: Your Thoughts Run Your Life

Here are some truths that we must remember.

  • Happiness can and must be synthesized. That is, you can make yourself happy anytime you want to.
  • Happiness is a choice, it is a decision we must make.
  • Happiness is not found, it is synthesized. Dan Gilbert says, “We synthesize happiness, but we think happiness is a thing to be found.”
  • Happiness that we make is the same quality as natural happiness. It has the same effects, endures the same way, has the same health benefits, and makes us feel just as good as happiness that comes from ‘success’ in some area of endeavor
  • Our thoughts, words, and actions all affect our feelings. To change our feelings, we should change our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Your thinking shapes your life. Meditate, think, and dwell on what is good and you will become good. True joy is an emotion that comes because our minds and hearts dwell on the truths of the amazing glory of Life and the inheritance we have in Life. It’s an emotion that we can intentionally synthesize by meditating on all positive truth.

Here is my wish for you: That daily you will make yourself happy by thinking and meditating on who you are and the glorious endowment and blessings that you have given. As you do that, your joy will break forth like the noonday sun and you will shine onward in all brilliance. Your path will be like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day

Question. How have you encouraged yourself  in the past? What are some challenges that you are going through now that can benefit from you focusing your mind on what is good and synthesizing your happiness in him? Please share and bless others.

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  1. am an orphan i lost my dad at an age of 5, when i was 9, my mum also went to be with the lord. life has not been easy but i have seen the hand of the lord. he has touched people on our behalf and my vision is to take care of suffering children. am 26 now have a diploma in business studies and am graduating in December with a bachelors in Accounting and finance by the grace of God. i live in Kampala-Uganda. orphans go through a lot which make many to always have many questions running but God is faithful.well done donot get tired of doing good . sharlom

  2. Often we hear people say “I’m just not happy here” and they seem to feel like they have no control over their happiness, but truly they have complete control. Especially for those of us who have accepted Christ into our lives, the creater of joy; we should be able to find joy and happiness in the worst situations and be able to be proactive in synthesizing happiness.

  3. I am a Zambian destined in Zambia.

  4. I find happiness in knowing that I have made someone else happy. I and my husband assist some needy families with basic items like foods and clothing. Though at times we may not be able to give as much as we would want due to shortage of funds, I feel happy when we take the foodstuffs to these families and they express joy at having something to eat even if it is for a few days. Their joy and happiness makes me feel fulfilled and happy.

    • That’s wonderful Joyce! Continue to do that great work!

  5. I am more than interested, Doc. This is what I have always wanted. I will be grateful to know the requirements.

    • Doris,
      What country do you live in?

      • I am a Zambian destined in Zambia.

        • Are you able to pay your own flight to Cameroon? We offer training there that can benefit you. We have the dream scholarship which you may be eligible for. If you are able to pay your flight, etc, you can apply for the scholarship which may cover some of your tuition. Is that something you are able to do?

          • How long are your courses because, at the moment, I am in employment?

  6. I have heard it said before that even something as simple smiling will improve your emotions and cause you to feel better, even if thing aren’t going perfectly. This is that synthesized happiness you are taking about and I am really encouraged now to have control over my emotions and not allow situations to affect me so much. I have the great joy of Jesus inside me and that is what I should remember when choosing to be happy!

  7. Dr. I agree with you that ” orphans are very difficult to care for, ungrateful, tend to oppose authority, and may sometimes support your enemies to undermine your work in caring for them!” This statement is very true. I am not in ministry yet but I look after orphans from my late brother and sister. However, recently, I have been sensing that God is calling me into the ministry of orphans, and I am really benefiting from the information I am getting from you. I really appreciate.

    I have been facing challenges whereby I find myself saying, “I will never ever look after orphans again in my life.” However, I find myself wanting to do more, even for orphans outside my family. I believe it is a calling from God and I feel fulfilled. I believe God has been giving me strength to go on. For me, I have realised that the mission of looking after orphans pleases God, and this, in itself, encourages me and makes me happy. However, I admit that it is not an easy task, especially without God’s guidance.

    • Thanks Doris for sharing. I pray that God will guide you as you obey him to serve orphans. Like you said, they are difficult to serve but they are totally worth it.

      With your heart, I think the training we offer through Austin Bible College will really help prepare you to serve God better. Let us know if that’s something you are interested in.