Finding Happiness

The International Journal of Research Studies in Psychology published a study called What Makes Teenagers Happy. The study was published in 2012 and included other research on the same subject matter. The findings, at least to me, were not surprising. Healthy relationships with family, friends, playing sports and other activities and participating in church groups led to feelings of being wanted or loved. More importantly 50% of teenagers said that healthy relationships led to happiness.

Coming in at number two was self-fulfillment at 32%. Teenagers said events relating to achievement and how they spend quality leisure time also brought them a great deal of happiness. The third reason was spiritual. Their responses weren’t just a vague mention or belief in a higher power. They actually said participating in events that led to, or involved, a relationship with God brought them happiness. 10% of teenagers gave that reason. If you add up the top 3, you can easily deduce that 92% of teenagers can find happiness by participating in one or all of the three reasons mentioned above.

My first blog focused on knowing your own personal talents. My second blog explained goal setting. I explained goal setting and introduced some strategies to set realistic and achievable goals. If you are a teenager and you have read those two previous blogs, my question is, what if happiness was a goal? Every goal has an objective or multiple objectives. What if the objectives were; 1) invest time into developing healthy relationships. 2) Joining some type of team, club or other activity that can enhance your talents. 3) find God.

Objectives Towards Happiness:

1). Developing Healthy Relationships isn’t necessarily easy. It definitely takes an investment in time. Hopefully, this will include your immediate family, parents, siblings, or maybe your extended family like aunts, uncles and grandparents. However, for some people that might not be possible or realistic. There are people that have a very small family, or none at all. Perhaps it is an unfortunate situation or maybe the family’s provider, mom or dad, have a job that requires constant relocation, which makes it difficult to build relationships with family or friends. Families in the military have a hard time building relationships as many travel overseas. Keep in mind, this is an objective towards a goal. Regardless of the situation, you still have to work at it. I would suggest starting with one family member, just one. Parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, etc. Find common ground for communication or something that requires action, like a shared hobby. I have an aunt that recently died, just a few months before her 93rd birthday. She was born and raised in New York City. Whenever we spoke, I would ask her to describe what life was like in NYC when she was a teenager or in her early 20’s. I would love to hear how she could ride the subway at 2am without fear of anything, or that you could buy a roast beef sandwich for .15 cents. That was our common ground. With my son, it’s football, college and pro or MMA. I could wake him up at 4:00 in the morning and ask him something about those sports and he wouldn’t mind. My grandfather taught me to play checkers. As I got older, beyond 10 years old, I had little interest in playing checkers, but it was something my grandfather enjoyed. It was our connection. It required action, not only conversation, and it worked. He never hesitated to take out the checkerboard if I was visiting. He may have enjoyed it more than me, or maybe he didn’t he got tired of it also, but it was our special connection, so we always found a reason to play checkers. Those are just 3 examples. Maybe you have a relative or friend that you would like to have a relationship with. Maybe they need a friend also. Maybe all they need is someone listen to their problems. In that situation, all you have to do is listen. Most people like good listeners. Remember, this is a goal or series of goals. Start small and build. Start with one relative or friend, create your own strategy or process that works for you and then try it on others. You will need to work at it. Building healthy relationships is important to living a happy and fulfilling life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. As you grow into adulthood, developing good people and communication skills will be important in college and in almost any career that you decide to pursue. As you fine tune this skill, you will also learn what types of people or relationships to avoid. Understanding how to build healthy and successful relationships will also teach you which ones to avoid. As a reminder, the article I quoted at the beginning of this blog suggested that healthy relationships lead to happiness. That’s the goal, to develop healthy relationships.  

2) Personal Fufillment, which is the second objective should be fun. If you know your talents, skills, likes and dislikes you can focus on those interests and building healthy relationships that share the same passions. Most kids played some type of sport when they were younger. Parents try hard to help their children experience different types of activities. You may have hated playing soccer or another sport at a young age, but there weren’t many options. In high school there is almost no end to the extra curricular activities. If there is nothing in your school that interests you, don’t be discouraged. There are other activities that involve volunteering or even a job you might enjoy that makes you feel fulfilled and adds value and self-worth. I remember this one high school girl. She was very close with all four of her grandparents. She became very fond of old people. She started volunteering in an assisted living facility and loved it. This was very fulfilling for her, and she established relationships and brought joy to a lot of elderly people. I remember a 9th grader who loved dogs and started his own business as a dog walker. He enjoyed it so much; the money was not as important as doing something he loved. Being able to do something you love, almost every day, and make money at it is very rewarding. Even gaming is ok providing your priorities are in order and your gaming is age appropriate. My son is in his 20’s and still plays video games. I don’t mind because his priorities are in order. More importantly, most of his gaming friends he has known since junior high school. He has been friends with some of them since the 3rd grade. So for him, playing video games with his friends checks two of the boxes. All of these ideas lead to a sense of achievement. If you are a teenager, there is no excuse for not being able to find a hobby or activity that brings you a sense of joy or achievement.

3)Finding God. I can’t suggest anything that can guarantee you a relationship with God. Everyone prays differently and finds God in many different ways. However, I can make some worthwhile suggestions.

  1. Find a church. If you are currently a member of a church, and you like your church, then I would direct you to the second bullet point below, which is to join your church’s youth group. If you currently don’t belong to a church, or if your parents have been taking you to the same church since you were a child and you don’t like it, then now is the time to search for a new church. One of my closest friends has two children. They all go to different churches. You might prefer a different type of pastor, speaking style, music or worship. These are all important considerations. All of those criteria should help you develop a better understanding of God. For me personally, I prefer a very reverent form of worship, but I also enjoy more contemporary praise music. Finding a church that has both in their worship services is rare. Find a church where you feel comfortable and fosters an openness to finding God.
  1. Join a youth group. Almost every church, denomination or religion has some type of organization that focuses on youth. I would find one and join. They usually do a very good job of blending social, spiritual and volunteer type of activities. Most are successful at making teenagers feel welcome regardless of their background, income level, social status, etc. I have found that many kids enjoy their youth group because they feel comfortable, appreciated and are able to make friends easily. There is also a different type of energy level when a group of kids play and worship together. This comfort level and openness leads to a better opportunity to develop a relationship with, or some type of understanding of, God.
  2. Go on a retreat. Very few activities can offer more spiritual nourishment than going on a retreat, especially if you want learn and experience God. The word retreat means to move away from or withdraw and that’s exactly what happens on a religious retreat. You withdraw from your surroundings. No school, distractions, peer pressure, parents, social media and temptations. Retreats provide fertile ground for seeking God. Teenagers have way too many distractions in their daily lives, it helps to withdraw from those things. When you remove yourself from distractions and temptations and focus on God, you usually find him. There is something incredibly indescribable about going on a religious retreat and focusing on God. I have witnessed countless numbers of teenagers attend retreats with a lot on their minds, some in distress, only to see them return home experiencing great peace. I would recommend attending at least one retreat per year, two if possible.
  3. Learn to pray. The apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray, so don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know how. Prayer is speaking to God. Some people use the ACTS method, Adoration, Contrition, Thanks & Supplication. I also like PRAY as an acronym, Pray, Revere, Ask & Yield. The purpose of the word Yield in the second acronym is to have respect for God’s timing and not yours, you yield to His authority. You can also use music to pray. Teenagers love music. Search for some religious songs you like and create a playlist. I have more than one. You can also search for Christian music videos. There are a lot of them. Sitting on your couch, or somewhere else, watching Christian music videos is still a form of prayer. Sometimes I just go for a walk and talk to God. There are so many ways to pray, and you should attempt all of them and never use just one.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate what I suggested in the first paragraph. If 92% of teenagers find happiness in their relationships, personal fulfillment and developing a relationship with God, then why not make them goals. In this blog I suggested multiple ways for building healthy relationships, enjoying personal fulfillment by exploring your passions and methods for finding God. Make them your goals and begin your journey to a happy and more fulfilling life.