Give me happiness, O Lord, for my life depends on you. (Psalm 86:4 NLT)

There are lots of weird ideas out there about happiness.

Everybody wants to be happy. Most of us think we could and would be happy — if only we were somebody else or had what someone else has. The vast majority of us definitely link happiness with money and the lifestyle money could create for us. But a few facts might surprise you.

Contrary to what most of us think, money doesn't make people happy. Of course, people without the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing need enough money to satisfy those requirements. But once a person passes an annual income figure of about $50,000, more money doesn't bring an incremental increase in personal happiness.

So winning the lottery isn't the key to happiness. Neither is being "footloose" and free of responsibility. Some of the unhappiest people are the ones who don't have work to do. And the idea that growing older will rob you of happiness is yet another falsehood.

What's the source of all these claims? A survey done by the Pew Research Center turned up some interesting statistics:

  • Married people are happier than single people.
  • Males 65 and older comprise the happiest age group.
  • College graduates are happier than people without a college degree.
  • Religious persons are generally happier than those who aren't.
  • Maybe the experts are right this time.
  • Sunbelt residents are happier than people living in other climates.

One researcher who has devoted considerable time to the subject is Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton. She insists the most direct path to happiness is in learning to do little things every day that produce a feeling of joy and peace — like taking a walk, cooking a meal, or reading a book.

Another researcher says that his studies in a variety of cultures point to the fact that the single best predictor of happiness is close family ties and a positive network of human relationships.

Maybe the experts are right this time. Most people are burning themselves out pursuing and accumulating "stuff" — while the critical relationships in their lives go begging. We saddle ourselves with debts and duties — while the basics are still loving God and caring about each other.

Happiness is more an attitude than a circumstance, and a healthy mind-set toward life is rooted in loving and being loved.