As we come to the end of the Happy School Advanced lessons, I hope you have learned the life-transforming principles of how to think. Your journey has just begun. Life cannot be solved, but only managed. Knowing how to think correctly helps you manage your life well.
Below, in the final lesson of this course, I have listed what I think are the most helpful and important concepts for you to take away from your study of Happy School. Here is a summary of the top 10 best concepts for a happy heart (in no particular order).
Understand the Four Foundational Puzzle Pieces of Happy School
The grand prize blue ribbon for the most helpful and important strategy and concept in Happy School goes to…da da…the Four Foundational Puzzle Pieces. Let’s run through these truths one more time.
The first puzzle piece is that your thoughts—not reality—determine your emotions. Remember the example in Lesson 1, Day 1, of the girl in the dark alley at midnight in the bad part of town? She was afraid, of course. But the truth was, she was perfectly safe. (Click HERE to review this principle.) In Happy School, we realize we are not the victim of our emotions, but the producer of them. You master your moods by mastering your thoughts.
The second puzzle piece is that your brain can only think one thought at a time. You super sharp chicks out there may be able to go back-and-forth quickly, but you’re still only able to think one thought at a time. Therefore, you can’t think a negative thought if you’re thinking something neutral or positive.
The third piece is that as a glorious human, created in the image of God, you can think about your thinking. You can listen in to your self-talk, the Parade that Marches Across Your Brain. It’s an extraordinary capability we humans have.
The fourth puzzle piece…drumroll, please….is that you can interrupt your thinking (Hot Potatoes) and Move into Another Room in Your Brain (think about something else). You can choose to Change Rooms. This is an astronomical, humongous, colossal, life-altering truth! (Remember, the Apostle Paul implies that we are not to think negative thoughts by listing the positive thoughts we are to think about: whatsoever is true, honorable, just, pure…Phil. 4:8.)
You can actually go from a pessimistic worrier with self-pity to an optimistic and positive person. That’s the beauty of guarding your mind and taking all thoughts captive.
Quarantine Your WMDs (What’s Missing and Disappointing) to One of Three Times
A young woman I know told me she is having huge anxiety issues. I asked her if she thought about her worries a lot. “Not just a lot,” she said, “but all the time.”
I cannot count the number of times I have recommended to people to quarantine their WMDs (What’s Missing and Disappointing) to only one of the three allowable times (found on p. 40-41 in Happy School). Then, very predictably, they say, “What? Only three times? Why, I think about my WMDs all day long.”
You can’t let your WMDs run wild. You absolutely can’t. Pray with fervor and take massive action to problem-solve your concerns. But then, you have to quarantine your WMDs. You do this by Moving into Another Room in Your Brain, i.e., thinking about something else.
People can get huge freedom from their emotional issues when they learn how to quarantine their WMDs.
Realize You Assign an Interpretation to Every Circumstance
Early in my marriage, even though my husband was extremely dutiful and faithful, I repeatedly didn’t think he loved me (enough). Because if he really did love me as much as he was supposed to, we would frequently have long soul talks about how much he loved me. (I can hear you laughing.)
Then I learned that there are three main topics that most men think about: Work, money, and sex…(with a hobby as a possible fourth). That blew my mind. Where were relationships in that line-up?! Why, I discovered that my husband was just being an ordinary man! I had been assigning an incorrect interpretation to the fact that he primarily thought about those subjects instead of me.
I started interpreting the fact that he brought home his paycheck and that he was faithful as evidence of his love. He came home after work and spent his evenings giving baths and reading books to little kids. I interpreted those actions as love. Men don’t feel loved by discussing intimate feelings (like most women do), but with shared recreational activities and with, uh, sex. It’s huge when you realize that your interpretations may not be perfectly correct.
Another interpretation I used to have was that obstacles were horrible. I hated obstacles. But then I learned that obstacles often have hidden opportunities. I’ve learned that God can blow obstacles away when He’s ready, like the wind blows away smoke. “May You blow (enemies) away like smoke” (Ps. 68:2).
Recently I’ve been in conversation with two young men who bathe their minds with sermons and podcasts of godly men. I’ve also been in conversations with young men who do not. Their lives look very different. When you bathe your mind over and over again with godly thought, you begin to have correct interpretations. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:9). You can train your mind to know truth over the years by what life coaches call exposures, that is, what you expose your mind to. Do you look at endless social media posts or do you fill your mind with good thoughts, such as good books and podcasts?
Fill your mind with wisdom and truth daily, and soon you’ll have a discerning and wise mind. Then you will be much better at accurately interpreting circumstances.
You Despise Yourself if You Ignore Self-Discipline
“He who ignores discipline despises himself” (Proverbs 15:32). You already know this. When you overeat or you over-anything, you hate yourself. When it comes to the Christian women in my groups, the two areas that seem to come up most often are overeating Trash Food and drinking too much alcohol.
I remember days in my early 20s when I thought about my weight all day long. I mean literally, if I wasn’t engaged in some activity that took my mind, I was thinking about my weight. I know that sounds ridiculous and shallow, but that’s how painful it was and how trapped I felt.
Sometimes bad habits are not just stupid, they are sin. “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear,” says the Psalmist in Ps. 38:4. Then in verse 8, the Psalmist continues, “I groan in anguish of heart.” Last week I got an email from a godly and highly-likable lady who struggles with drinking too much wine. She wrote, “I hate myself.” It’s true that if you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t, you will be miserable.
“The rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (Ps. 68:66).
Discover and Use Your Genius Zone
This might be one of my most favorite concepts. It is the Room that I Move into that keeps me from my WMDs. When you find the 3-way intersection of your interests, your skills, and a need in the world, you will buzz and sing. I can’t say loudly enough how healing it is to have something that you enjoy, that you’re good at, and that you can give away to help others.
God didn’t give us our gifts and our proclivities so we would be self-absorbed and use our gifts exclusively on ourselves. These gifts were given to us so that we might bless others. “Fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). (See Lesson 5 in Happy School for more on this concept and be sure to fill out all the workbook pages in this chapter.)
Stay Out of These Rooms
Before you can stay out of a room, you first have to be aware that you’re even in the Room. The Rooms I’m primarily referring to (there are others) are having self-pity, thinking about failure or regret, being offended, being angry or resentful, or having worry and fear. If you listen to the Parade that Marches across Your Brain, your self-talk, you will be able to discern if you are in one of those Rooms. This is a process, learning more and more to identify and discern your emotions and the preceding self-talk.
Once you recognize you are wallowing around in any of these Rooms, then you can replace, refute, or reframe your thoughts. (Lesson 2 in Happy School).
For example, a friend of mine was in the Room of Being Offended. She, along with a group of friends, threw a party honoring a soon-to-be bride and groom. At the party, the bride said to a few of her friends, “Gather around, everyone. Let’s get a picture. I want to remember this moment with my favorite friends.” My friend was in the kitchen, refilling food trays, and no one thought to notice she was not in the picture. Six years later, my friend was still offended that the bride didn’t care if she was in the photo. I said to my friend, “You’ve got to replace those thoughts. You’re telling yourself that either she didn’t care about you or that you’re not important. Instead, what if the bride was stressed—since most brides usually are—and therefore wasn’t able to think on all cylinders? Maybe the bride was nervous and was in a hyper-mode, and the oversight wasn’t intentional?” Then I said to her, “We all could be ridiculously offended all the time if we let ourselves.” Solomon wrote, “A prudent man overlooks an insult” (Prov. 12:16). We all must be smoke and let offenses pass through or we will be frequently upset. Overlooking an offense is such a valuable skill to know and implement.
Another example of being in one of those troublesome Rooms was a time when I was thinking about some past failure in my life. During that time, a godly young man named Trent told me he was reading through Genesis. He commented on how flawed the characters of the Old Testament were. His comment stunned me. I mean, these messed-up people are the Bible’s heroes?! I love how God painted the biblical characters realistically, so I could once again realize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The truth is (refutation and thought-replacement coming) in spite of my failures, I have been given a Seat at the Table. I am accepted in the Beloved. These are the thoughts I think instead when I am plagued with thoughts about any past failure or regret. “Forgetting what lies behind…” (Phil. 3:13).
Another example of an important Room to Stay Out of (and to refute the associated thoughts) is fear. Years ago, I heard a sermon by John Piper. As a pastor, he had recently had many of his church members experience tragedy. One example that I remember was a young couple who had a baby born with eye sockets, but no eyes. John Piper said that when the unthinkables and the unimaginables happen, he takes people to Psalm 46. Following are the verses that have stuck with me from that sermon: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”
What an amazing picture of tragedy, when the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. I cannot count the times that verse has comforted me when my mountains fell into the sea. We walk by faith or we are in angst.
A few years ago when I was going through an unimaginable and unthinkable situation, I downloaded the music of the play Hamilton to my phone. I listened to it while I worked out at my gym. The song It’s Quiet Uptown (spoiler alert) is a song about Alexander Hamilton after he lost his son, Philip. The song talks about Alexander “going through the unimaginable.” I remember sobbing in the gym to such a degree that I had to leave. Music can arouse deep emotions. If you’d like to listen to It’s Quiet Uptown, you can do so HERE. We humans will have unimaginables. When they come, God’s grace will be sufficient. We can grieve—and we should—but eventually, we must return to the land of the living and quarantine even our grief.
Be Hugely Intentional with Your Relationships
Since the quality of our relationships is so important to our happiness, it is especially important to study and learn the art of relationship. Unlike nuclear physics, it is not a complicated subject to learn. It’s actually quite simple. We have discussed relationships in depth but here are a couple more quick thoughts.
One of my friends was recently telling me that in her small group, the number one problem the women have is bitterness and resentments. I really think it’s the hardest thing on the face of the earth to forgive those who have hurt us or the ones we love. When people have treated us wrong, we naturally want them to pay. But God wants us to think about the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18: 21-35) to realize how much we’ve been forgiven and therefore, must forgive others.
Years ago I had trouble forgiving someone who had used me. Then the Lord reminded me of someone that I didn’t treat so well. I mean, I can make excuses, of course, but still, I didn’t treat this particular person exactly right. And to make matters doubly worse, I then remembered someone else I didn’t treat exactly right either (this is embarrassing). Since God forgave me, I realized I had to forgive this person for using me. Resentments keep our soul small and moldy.
Make it a goal to learn how to have amazing relationships. Maybe you can’t make other people love you, but you can be loving and giving and in this way, draw others to yourself. The art of being good at relationships has been dissected and discovered. (For more info, see Lesson 9 in Happy School as well the entirety of Wife School and Husband School.) You can learn the secrets and implement the techniques of growing awesome and satisfying relationships. Even if you grew up in a dysfunctional family-of-origin, you can still learn how to forge great relationships. Take the time to learn the principles.
Remember, focus on how you love and give, not on how you’re loved and given to.
Realize Your Emotions Affect Your Health and Your Health Affects Your Emotions
Thoughts are things. They cause a physical reaction in your body. (We have used the example of how fear makes your heart rate escalate many times.) Previously, we have discussed how people with resentment are more likely to have disease. You cannot keep your resentment, bitterness, and other negative emotions (from negative thoughts) in your body without consequences. God made our bodies so that a merry heart doeth good like medicine.
But also know that the same is true in reverse, your health affects your emotions. There are many strategies you can do to increase your health—eat wholesome food, exercise, sleep well—and of course, think positive thoughts. It’s hard to be joyful when you’re eating Trash Food, not exercising, not sleeping, overscheduled, and stressed.
“Good news gives health to the bones” (Prov. 15:30b). Think about that. Why does good news give health to the bones? Because thoughts are things and thoughts have an impact on your body. Good news is positive thought, so it has a healthy, positive impact on your bones (body). Be very intentional about the thoughts you allow in your mind and as I’ve repeatedly stressed, be sure to develop healthy habits.
Be Careful To Insert Good Thoughts into Your Mind (Especially with the Morning Happiness Routine, MHR)
Be very intentional about putting good thoughts in your brain early in the morning with the Morning Happiness Routine. Working on your Gratefulness Practice, your list of What You’re Looking Forward to, your Enjoy Log, etc. can lavishly change your mood.
Another great routine is to take an early morning walk. I am constantly reading new benefits of walking. This weekend, I discovered that an early morning aerobic activity (such as normal walking) helps with your circadian cycle, thus helping you with your sleep! The benefits of taking daily walks continue to increase. In many studies, exercise was shown to be as effective (or more effective) on depression than anti-depressants.
And finally, the very most important log (thought) to put into your wood stove (your mind) in the morning is our next concept, #10. It is ingesting God’s brilliant, inspiring, true, life-changing, powerful Word and having time with Him in prayer.
Seek the Lord as it is He Who Restores Your Soul
Skeptics say it is ridiculous to believe in miracles, like the resurrection—even though the evidence of the multiple, independent, eyewitness reports is overwhelming. But what’s hilarious are the “miracles” that skeptics believe in. For instance, skeptics say that because of the laws of physics, everything was created from nothing, which is called the Big Bang. (By the way, what created the laws of physics?!) Another miracle skeptics believe is that life sprang from non-life. This diagram is a simplified picture of one, single, mega-complex cell, that is complicated like a city, and supposedly just sprang to life. Preposterous! A third miracle atheists believe is that humans arose from a single cell through a series of mutations and natural selection. (This is called evolution, but the truth is, mutations overwhelmingly lose information, not gain. A principle called Mendel’s Accountant refutes this but I will save this information for my apologetics book.)
Rejoice, Christian! God exists, and He left plenty of evidence so we might believe!
In addition, God left us His Word, the Bible. Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “You read most books. This book reads you.” That is because “the Word of God is alive and active” (Heb. 4:12).
Last night in the middle of the night, while the logical part of my brain was largely shut down, I was plagued with thoughts about my WMDs. I fought back to control my mind with counting descending stairs and finally got back to sleep. But as soon as I woke up, I headed to the Psalms, as they are ultra-powerful for changing my mood. I look forward to meeting with God who “daily bears our burdens” (Ps. 68:19). I’m excited about meeting with the One who “forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit” (Ps. 103: 3-4). He satisfies our “desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (v. 5). In addition, I love that “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). Knowing God is such a delight and privilege.
Don’t be fooled by the tinsel of the world. When I was 30, I pulled up next to someone my parents knew who was driving a yellow convertible. He was a doctor—very tan and fit, and extremely handsome. “Wow, he has the life,” I thought to myself, as I gazed down at my frumpy clothes and clunker automobile. But later, I found out this man—who was an unbeliever— had an open marriage and was also an alcoholic. Your inclinations, as well as mine, are often wrong. Let the Word renew your mind and give you God’s perspective on life.
Friend, be careful to number your days and to seek the Lord. “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone…” (Ps. 103: 15-16). Life is short. Waste not another second.
The best advice I can ever give you is to remember, “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to Him” (Ps. 128:1). Remember, you decide if it is a priority to seek the LORD daily.
God bless you, my Happy School friend!
If I find anything else that I think might help you in your quest for joy and happiness, I will email you. I am getting ready to publish the Happy School Study Guide and Workbook, which will include pages for your Quartz Journal, these HSA lessons, and some new information. I hope the workbook will make it easy for you to get a few friends together and sift through these principles again. Remember, it’s a five year program and you have to reprogram (renew) your mind with this thought. It won’t happen by reading this once. Take one group of friends through the principles and then another group. This will seal the new thought into your mind and then you will own it! Having to explain these principles to others carves deep neural pathways. I think my own journey to a happy heart was hugely expedited because I continually had groups and had to keep re-explaining the principles. This cemented the principles in my own brain.
I love hearing from my readers and would love to hear from you. You are always welcome to reply to this email or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to close our 12 weeks together with this final verse: “A cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). That’s my goal for you, to have a cheerful heart and thus, a continual feast! God bless you and your children and your children’s children!