Acadamic Support Centers Faculty
Kristin Ballou was born in Ogden, Utah. In 1986, she earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary science education and in 2012, she enrolled in a master’s program in instructional technology at Idaho State University. Kristin has been employed in various educational settings and has worked with a wide range of learners for over 30 years. Her experience includes running a preschool program and teaching both science and math at the junior high and high school level. She has been employed at BYU-Idaho since 2002.
Kristin and her husband, Rich, have been married for almost 20 years. They have three children and one grandson, with another grandson on the way. Kristin enjoys spending time with family, traveling, playing tennis, skiing, running, hiking, and serving others. She has held multiple Church callings in her life including Primary teacher, Relief Society teacher, Young Women advisor, Sunday School teacher, and Young Women president. Kristin is currently serving as the Relief Society president in her ward.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
What are some commonplace, everyday experiences that have made you happy in a lasting way?
When you face challenges that threaten your happiness, what do you do?
I am very happy, but also humbled, to have this opportunity to speak to you members of the BYU-Idaho community, both near and far. Happiness is exactly what I want to talk about today. We all are seeking happiness in our lives, aren’t we?
If I gave you this one-question survey, how would you respond? To the question, “Are you happy?” would you choose, “Definitely,” “Mostly,” “Sort of,” “Not really,” or “Not at all”? As you listen today, please evaluate your level of happiness and consider actions you can take so you feel more joy in your life.
I loved reading the responses in this week’s devotional discussion board where I posed the question, “What are some commonplace, everyday experiences that have made you happy in a lasting way?”
Here are some responses: For Verona, it’s walking in nature and witnessing kind acts by strangers. Portia finds joy in her children and singing the hymns. Stacy is happy when she creates things for others. Julie wrote, “Simple and sometimes quiet things, such as a butterfly floating through my yard, are the things that bring me the most happiness.”
Here is someone who makes me very happy. This is my grandson Keenan. A few days before Easter, my husband and I talked to Keenan and his parents through Zoom. In his four-year-old excited way, Keenan urgently said, “Gramma, Gramma, Grampa, Grampa, I need to tell you something.” He had just participated in a stake Primary activity and was frustrated he hadn’t been able to share an important comment that was on the forefront of his mind. Bursting with the importance of his message, he said, “Jesus hanged up so we can be together forever.” In his beautiful, childlike way, Keenan had shared his testimony that Christ suffered on the cross so we can be happy. Then, Keenan continued, “Nobody runs away.”
Keenan’s statement makes me incredibly happy because he knows about Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for us. We know “men are, that they might have joy,”  yet sometimes we might not be feeling the joy.
I’m going to share four suggestions for a happier life. These ideas certainly aren’t the only actions necessary for a happy life; they are simply ones I have felt impressed to share.
Suggestion 1: Deeply Connect with Others
Keenan’s quote demonstrates he understands the importance of connection with other people. He recognizes we are not saved as individuals. We are saved as families. We are intended to be together forever as members of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother’s family. “Nobody runs away.” Connectedness is essential for our eternal happiness, but it’s also important to our happiness here and now.
In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” 
Science supports the importance of connectedness as well. Recently, I have been really struck by comments from Brené Brown, a renowned social science researcher. She said, “Connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it's all about. . . . the ability to feel connected, is neurobiologically . . . how we're wired—it's why we're here.”  I love it when science research intersects with gospel truths!
We know we should be connected with others and we know the Lord wants us to be connected with others, but doing it is the challenge of a lifetime.
What prevents us from deeply connecting to others? Brown said, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”  People who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect—and to let others see they’re imperfect. They have compassion towards themselves and others, even with all their imperfections. Having that kind of attitude makes you vulnerable—and we don’t like feeling vulnerable. We usually numb ourselves to that emotion. In doing so, we make ourselves miserable. Why? Because we can’t selectively numb emotions. When we numb vulnerability, we also numb emotions like joy and gratitude; we numb happiness. That meshes with Lehi’s teaching, doesn’t it? “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”  To experience the joy and the warmth of connection, we must also experience the discomfort of putting ourselves out there—our real selves—and risking that we may have some awkward or even temporarily painful experiences.
Since we generally don’t like that feeling of vulnerability, we often numb our emotions. We might play video games for hours on end when we know we should be doing other things like interacting with our roommates or doing homework. We might shop for things we don’t really need. And there are a host of other negative behaviors we can engage in to numb our emotions. Today there are more cases of addiction, high consumer debt, health problems, and mental health challenges than in any previous era. Brené Brown believes numbing our emotions is a primary cause for those maladies.  The alternative to numbing our emotions is to get outside ourselves and have the courage to engage with others in authentic ways.
Speaking of being authentic (or not), here is a brave soul who risked his life to get the perfect social media shot. Or did he? Here’s that same rock from a different angle and we see it’s actually about three feet above the ground. Look at all the people lined up for that photo op. Do we sometimes present our lives as being more glamorous or different than they really are? Think beyond social media posts and consider all the ways you present yourself to the world. Do you project a “fake” you or the real you? The next time a friend asks how you are, consider saying something other than “fine.” Because that’s what we do, right? “Fine, fine, I’m fine.” Sometimes we are not fine! Perhaps a student might say something real, like, “Well, I’m okay, but there’s some tough things going on back home with my family right now and it’s really hard for me to even focus.” When you share a piece of what’s really happening in your life, you’re opening the door for a substantial conversation. You’re developing connection. Then, later, when your friend is struggling, he or she will be more likely to also share life challenges. We covenanted to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.”  That can only happen when we’re willing to be “real.” Also, rest assured that the real you is infinitely better and more loveable than the fake you.
When we attempt to portray ourselves as something we’re not, it requires a whole lot of energy—energy that could be used for a better purpose. In a recent podcast, Hank Smith explained that whenever he seeks to impress, it never turns out well. However, when his aim is to bless others, it’s all good.  That is a great mantra to live by: strive to bless, not impress.
Have you ever been at a restaurant and looked over at another table to see a group of people who aren’t interacting at all because their faces are buried in their phones? I have, and it makes me sad. Young adults today have more ways to connect than any generation in the past, yet data indicates that, collectively, they are the most isolated and lonely generation ever.  Let’s change that!
When you have opportunities to interact face to face, seize the moment and engage in conversation. Have evening prayer with your roommates. Pay a compliment to a person you pass in the grocery store. Talk to someone in one of your classes. There may be risk and discomfort in doing those things, but your life will be richer, and you will bless others! In this week’s devotional discussion board, Luke wrote, “I am very grateful for people who smile and greet me as I walk from class to class each day. That small and simple act of service, recognizing another human being and smiling at them, helps me to feel greater love for others and a reminder that God loves me.”
When I think of the spiritual importance of human connectedness, the second great commandment comes to mind: “Love thy neighbor.”  Recently, I’ve realized that is much more than simply being “nice.” It means being willing to care about others deeply and to genuinely connect with them.
In last week’s devotional, Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi reminded us that difficulties come to all of us and having trusted partners is critical to our safety and success as we strive to scale the mountains in our lives. He said, “If you are missing a trusted friend and climbing companion, seek good friends and/or family members through fervent prayer and faithful action. I promise, the Lord ‘will not leave you comfortless. [He] will come to you’ (John 14:18).” 
Here at BYU-Idaho, one of our institutional learning outcomes is to become skilled collaborators. This quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley is found on the university webpage that highlights that outcome: “You will never be alone. In this world we work together to accomplish things. . . . The Almighty has designed that we work together, that we assist one another, that we bless one another in our association.” 
When you’re asked to participate in a group assignment, do you groan and think, “Ugh! I hate group work!” If that’s you, I invite you to take a different approach. See it as an opportunity to interact with others in a genuine and caring way. It’s a chance for you to bless your partners’ lives and to learn from them.be alone. In this world we work
Suggestion 2: Allow Yourself to Be Happy Today
In a 2012 general conference talk, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf reported that people close to death often express they wish they had let themselves be happier.  Are you waiting for some future point to be happy? You might tell yourself, “When I find my eternal companion, then I’ll be happy,” or “When I get done with school and can earn some money, then I’ll be happy.”
President Russell M. Nelson said, “When the focus of our lives is on . . . Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.” 
I love playing tennis. A life lesson I’ve learned from tennis is it’s critical to focus on the current point—and to enjoy it. When the ball goes into play, if I’m dwelling on my weaknesses and failures from previous points or I’m thinking ahead to how great it will be if I win, it distracts me from bringing my best skills to bear on the current point, which is the only point I have any influence on at the moment. I can’t alter the points that have happened, but I can do my best right now to make up for past errors, and I can enjoy the experience. I can’t predict what will come next in the match, but again, I can do my best right now to set myself up to be in good position to succeed. Another critical lesson I’ve learned from tennis is to keep my eye on the ball! I try to watch the ball so hard I can see the seams of the ball as it’s coming at me.
Each tennis point is analogous to each day in my life. I can put forth my best effort every day to learn and grow. Obsessing about the past or worrying about the future hinders me from enjoying the present moment and from doing my best. Keeping my eye on the ball equates to focusing my attention on my Savior. Notice that focusing on the Savior and His gospel is exactly what President Nelson indicated is the key to feeling joy in the present! 
Suggestion 3: Forget “Fair”
Life is not fair. Sometimes we face circumstances that are very difficult and completely outside our control. In our recent general conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund called that “infuriating unfairness.”  Now, when I say to “forget ‘fair,’” I’m not implying we should treat others unfairly. We should always strive to treat others with the utmost respect. What I am recommending is we not dwell on perceived unfairness in our lives. Why? Obsessing about unfairness robs us of gratitude and humility. It can lead us to harden our hearts against God. Elder Renlund counseled us to ask for God’s help in our extremity and to rely on the Savior: “Rather than becoming bitter, let Him help you become better.” 
About three years ago my husband, Rich, and I faced a situation that some might view as “unfair.” We had been living in Rexburg for 18 years. I worked here on campus and my husband was employed by LDS Philanthropies. The stability of our lives was abruptly rocked when Rich learned LDS Philanthropies was downsizing and he, along with everyone in the Idaho office, no longer had jobs. He found a job in Pocatello and we felt impressed to move there, although I still continued to work on campus. I loved working for BYU-Idaho, but could not see how that could continue since I resided 80 miles from campus. I assumed the Lord had another professional opportunity in store for me in Pocatello. I interviewed for a position in Pocatello and was one of the final candidates. Despite being well qualified, and despite my prayers, I did not get that job. I was crushed and frustrated. We had felt prompted to move, but that meant I had to drive 160 miles every workday or find a way to stay in Rexburg—which meant being away from my husband. But that wasn’t the end of that story. I’ll come back to it later.
There were things I learned through that difficult time and I grew closer to my Savior. Elder Renlund said this about accepting unfairness:
In unfair situations, one of our tasks is to trust that all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ overcame the world and absorbed all unfairness. Because of Him, we can have peace in this world and be of good cheer. If we let Him, Jesus Christ will consecrate the unfairness for our gain. He will not just console us and restore what was lost; He will use the unfairness for our benefit. When it comes to how and when, we need to recognize and accept, as did Alma, that “it mattereth not; for God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case.” 
To allow the Lord to consecrate unfairness for our gain requires we trust in Him, which leads us to my last suggestion for you today.
Suggestion 4: Trust the Lord
We need to really, deeply trust the Lord. This is easy to say but hard to do when we face difficult situations. In this mortal realm, we can’t see the outcome of each circumstance. It requires faith to do as President Nelson admonished and “let God prevail” in our lives. 
Picture in your head an animal that is trapped and wounded. Now picture someone attempting to free the animal and treat his injuries. The animal struggles and aggressively resists the very person who could free him and alleviate pain. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? When I grapple with tough problems in my life, I wonder if I’m that animal. If only I could see I am thrashing around so hard that I fail to realize the Lord is really trying to help me. If I could stop struggling long enough to trust Heavenly Father and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and follow them, He would assist me to become free and He would bind up my wounds.
What does that look like to deeply trust the Lord and let Him prevail in our lives? One way is to do as I suggested earlier and “forget ‘fair.’” We submit to our challenges and recognize them as a sign of God’s love for us. They are qualifying experiences He provides to fit us for life with Him. It also means we have the humility to admit that the Lord knows what is best for us. He said, “For all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”  In this week’s discussion board, Ashlie wrote, “If I put my trust in the Lord and do what feels like the next right thing, He will direct me.”
Back to my story about not getting the job that I thought I really wanted. After receiving that bitterly disappointing news, I continued doing the things I believed the Lord wanted me to and trusted there was a purpose for what I was experiencing. Two months later, I learned that a BYU-Idaho job I had wanted for 16 years—but didn’t think would become available before I retired—was posted as being open. I applied and I got that job, which is the greatest professional blessing of my life. I still have a long drive, but the Lord has helped me be at peace with that and daily assists me to manage the affairs of my crazy commuting life. I look back on that situation and think that if the Lord had answered my prayer and allowed me to get that Pocatello job, I would have missed out on my ultimate dream job! Every day I am grateful that the Lord knew what was best for me and that I trusted in His care.
Another way to trust the Lord is to look at the big picture and see our mortal experiences within the context of our eternal existence. As President Nelson said, we should not be “myopic.” 
In this week’s discussion board, Wadzanai described that seeing God’s hand in her life brings her the most happiness. That is true for me as well. A year and a half year ago, my father passed away; then two days later, my youngest sibling—a brother only 32 years old—unexpectedly died. It was a really difficult time. When I returned to work, I found a copy of this painting waiting for me as a gift. That image reminded me of Christ’s love, that He knew my pain and was reaching to lift me up, that because of His sacrifice, my father and brother would one day be resurrected. Having that eternal perspective gave me solace during a time of grief. Five months later, my husband and I were devastated when our 31-year-old son passed away. Once again, trusting the Lord and His promises has given us hope.
Trusting in the Lord also means we recognize we can only be perfected through His Atonement. If we believe we are left to our own efforts to gain salvation, we will continually feel we are not enough, and we will be ashamed to be our “real” selves. My favorite statement the Lord has said in all of scripture is, “My grace is sufficient.”  When we truly embrace the concept of grace, we can let go of our insecurities. If we trust in Him and wholeheartedly put our faith in Him, He will make up for what we lack.
I invite you to prayerfully consider the suggestions I offered today and seek the Lord’s guidance about actions you can take to have a greater measure of happiness in your life.
Most of all, I hope you come away from this devotional with the assurance that when you feel you are drowning in despair and you can barely breathe, Christ’s hand is extended. Trust Him and take His hand. As little Keenan reminded me, Jesus suffered “so we can be together forever. Nobody runs away.” I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 2 Nephi 2:25.
 Doctrine and Covenants 38:27.
 Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” TEDx Houston, Jun. 2010.
 2 Nephi 2:11.
 Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” TEDx Houston, Jun. 2010.
 Mosiah 18:8.
 Hank Smith, “Episode 19 Part 2—D&C 46-48,” Follow Him, May 4, 2021.
 Maria Vultaggio, “Gen Z Is Lonely,” Statista, February 4, 2020, https://www.statista.com/chart/20713/lonlieness-america/.
 Matthew 22:39.
 Jeremy R. Jaggi, “Arise and Get Thee into the Mountain,” BYU-I Devotional, Jun. 15, 2021.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Brigham Young University-Idaho Commencement Address,” Apr. 27, 2002.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Ensign, Nov. 2012.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign, Nov. 2016.
 Dale G. Renlund, “Infuriating Unfairness,” Ensign, May 2021.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Ensign, Nov. 2020.
 Doctrine and Covenants 101:16.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Ensign, Nov. 2020.
 Ether 12:27.