Maybe you’ve heard the Native American legend about wolves. It’s a parable that perfectly illustrates the way to happiness. According to the story, the grandson of an old Cherokee chief asked his grandfather, “Why is life so unhappy?”
The wise chief thought for a moment and then asked his grandson to listen to the wolves howling in the distance. The boy listened.
The grandfather continued: “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, and regret. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, and hope. This same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.”
The grandson thought about that for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Which wolf are we feeding?
When we feed our minds with happy moments and happy thoughts, we are not falling for some hokey gimmick. We are feeding the right wolf. We are storing up happiness. We are taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
This takes discipline—not unlike the discipline we need to be more patient, peaceful, self-controlled, and kind. No one would disagree that we need discipline, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to access all the fruits of the Spirit. We also have spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, worshipping, fasting, and serving others.
Today let’s begin the spiritual discipline of happiness. We can take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.
If we don’t give those minutes to God, who will gladly take them all? The enemy himself. The enemy specializes in wanting to mess with us. The enemy of your happiness doesn’t want you to have the mind of Christ. He wants you to have the mind of chaos.
When we focus on good thoughts, it’s as if we are taking a “Sabbath in the brain,” according to Dr. Caroline Leaf. Without a brain Sabbath, she says, we will ruminate and obsess. We will surrender our minds to negative thinking. We will compare and obsess and have inner freak attacks.
“You are free to make choices about how you focus your attention, and this affects how the chemicals and proteins and wiring of your brain change and function,” Dr. Leaf tells us.
Science is catching up with what God has said for a really, really long time. More than two thousand years ago, Paul penned these words: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Science now agrees with what Paul wrote to the Romans. Our minds can be renewed.
And it can happen when you dedicate as little as five minutes every day toward the worthwhile work of happiness.
I know what you might be asking yourself: Can five minutes a day really make a difference? Experts say yes, it can. Research reveals that five to sixteen minutes a day of focused, meditative thoughts increase the chances of a happier outlook on life. In five to sixteen minutes, science says, you can be happier.
Start with five. Just five. And begin to alter your brain.
With the Holy Spirit in you, you can direct your mind toward happiness and away from anxious or bitter thoughts.
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