So consistent is the data that Harvard’s School of Public Health has recently opened a Centre for Health and Happiness to study the link between mental wellness – including optimism, connectedness and purposefulness – and better health. The center’s co-director, Dr. Viswanath, looks to map out the nuances of happiness and its ensuing vitality. He is especially interested in the significant correlation between friendships – which he terms “social capital” – and our well-being.
This positive connection is probably not news to any of us who have experienced that feeling of well-being after time spent with good friends.
Still, basing our well-being on finding, making and keeping friends can be shaky ground. Friends can become “frenemies” and we may be placed in circumstances – job or school relocation – where old companions fall away and new ones are needed.
I remember when I moved to the big city for a new job. Although I had a few friends from work, I felt very lonely, living far from family and old friends.
It occurred to me that I was relying on other people and social circumstances to make me happy and this just wasn’t dependable or satisfying. I have learned through my Bible study over the years, that God is an ever-present source of good in my life. I remembered that no matter what I may face, I have a relationship with a loving Father-Mother that is constant. Since we are all His beloved children, (Genesis 1:26), all our relationships and activities are governed by His spiritual laws of harmony and peace. With God as my constant friend, I could understand more about the permanent nature of happiness and realize a greater peace in my life.
The Bible often illustrates this divine sense of love and care as the way a Shepherd cares for every one of His flock; and I was one of them – never misplaced, forgotten or uncared for. This inspiration helped to dissolve my sense of isolation as I felt reconnected to this divine source of all-good.
A friend of mine also experienced how this idea of God as caring for all of His flock helped him when he found himself feeling very unhappy and depressed after his relocation to a strange city. He regularly read a Christian Science Bible Lesson; and one week, this sentence stood out to him:
“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” (p.57:19)
He remembered a school acquaintance that had married and lived a bus ride away. He knew the couple had very little funds and were living in somewhat marginalized circumstances. It came to him that maybe they could use a friendly visit, so one day he bought some groceries and took the ride to see them. They were so grateful! And, he felt uplifted – he had created some happiness – and was basking in its afterglow. The depression lifted as he began focusing on being more considerate of others by making them feel welcome and included in any social situation.
Friends have supported and nourished me over the years. But as I’ve changed jobs and cities, I’ve come to see how recognizing my indelible relationship with God as my best and ever Friend has been a great source of happiness and, naturally, health too.
“O Lord, I would delight in Thee and on Thy care depend;
To Thee in every trouble flee, my best, my ever Friend”
(from a hymn by John Ryland)
This article can be read in Metroland Media news sites. Read here in Simcoe News.