I think we can all agree that all of us want to find happiness. For decades researchers have dove into our need to find and hold onto happiness with proof that giving and kindness can get us and our communities closer to happiness than other activities. In a quote from the recent paper Good for self or good for others? (Lilian J. Shin, Kristin Layous, Incheol Choi, Soojung Na & Sonja Lyubomirsky (2019): Good for self or good for others? The well-being benefits of kindness in two cultures depend on how the kindness is framed, The Journal of Positive Psychology)
“The pursuit of happiness is a global phenomenon, regularly dominating cultural discourse, popular media, and people’s closely held goals (Diener, 2000). Not surprisingly, psychological scientists have been exploring specific strategies – or positive activities – that can sustainably improve happiness. Positive activity interventions experimentally test the practice of simple, self-administered cognitive and behavioral strategies that can increase subjective well-being by promoting positive feelings, positive thoughts, and positive behaviors (Layous & Lyubomirsky, 2014). For example, activities such as counting one’s blessings (Chancellor, Layous, & Lyubomirsky, 2015; Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005), writing letters of gratitude (Boehm, Lyubomirsky, & Sheldon, 2011; Layous, Lee, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2013; Layous et al., 2017; Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon, 2011; Seligman et al., 2005), and performing acts of kindness (Chancellor, Margolis, Jacobs Bao, & Lyubomirsky, 2018; Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008; Layous et al., 2013; Nelson et al., 2015; Nelson, Layous, Cole, & Lyubomirsky, 2016; Sheldon, Boehm, & Lyubomirsky, 2012) have been shown to reliably boost well-being. If administered optimally, positive activity interventions can also build positive psychological resources such as social connections and meaning in life, as well as ameliorate existing maladaptive symptoms such as anxiety and rumination (Layous, Chancellor, & Lyubomirsky, 2014; Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006; Seligman et al., 2005; Shin & Lyubomirsky, 2016; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Taylor, Lyubomirsky, & Stein, 2017).
This is your road map to happiness and super easy to do. Giving to others. Simple The research is done, the proof is in the pudding but we still seem to think other things, things outside of ourselves will bring us happiness. So why dont we set a challenge for ourselves. Think about the things you do that you thought brought you happiness. It could be buying yourself clothes, or candy, or a something that you truly did not need. Think of that activity that you do over and over again and find that really the happiness you thought you would get, just does not come. Now take that activity and make it into a give. For example, if you like to bake, but find you just cant eat another cinnamon bun, why not give your baked goods to others. If you love to shop, why not shop at a second hand store and give away those clothes to people who need them at a shelter or a woman’s home. Do what you love and give it away. One give every day for a week, and watch happiness come into your life.
If you find that your favorite activity is not the best way to give then follow our three easy steps to start giving in a responsible, and meaningful way that only requires your action, and nothing more. Let me show you.
Make the commitment to give for one week. Take away the activities that you think bring you happiness but clearly dont, and plan out 7 days of giving. The commitment is the hardest part, but trust me, once you make the commitment to give for 7 days and happiness follows, you will be hooked.
Give. Give to people, the planet or to animals. Take your giving plan and execute one give each day for seven days. Here are some examples that are easy, take nothing but some action and will bring in happiness. Send a note of gratitude to someone you are thankful for. Do it through a text, email or give them a call. Tell them what you are grateful for. Go through your closet and find items that you can donate to a thrift store, a family shelter or a community organization that helps women. Homeless shelters need gently used clothing all the time. Sift through your pantry and donate food items to a local food bank or distribute to those who need it. Your choose. Make a piece of artwork and give it a friend or neighbour. Bake a batch of cookies and take them to the local fire department or hospital as a thank you for the men and women who keep you safe. Just give and see how happy you feel after the give and how happy those who receive your give feel.
What we love about giving is the ripple effect it has on others and yourself. This is how giving positively affects you, the reciever and anyone who witnesses or hears about the give you have completed. They too want to try the giving challenge to increase their happiness and well being. Tell your friends and family how you feel after your gives. Share the joy you saw in the people who received your give. This will activate the ripple effect of giving and start spreading happiness to others as they get on the giving and happiness train.
There is a ton of research that supports the connection between giving, kindness and happiness. As we all start to look at how to navigate our new post pandemic life, with more socialization, more contact with others, and more ways to reach out and give to others, we can use this unveiling as a way to increase our happiness and well being and make the world a better place as we spread our wings to include more than what we have just lived through. We can positively affect our communities by making a commitment to start giving to others as we open up our lives yet again interact with more people in a more positive way.
Our 365give Challenge is a great resource to jump start our happiness. Our resources will help you make the commitment to give, provide you with lots of giving ideas for the planet, people and animals, and give you the science on giving so you can watch it unfold right before you eyes and heart! Have fun with the Challenge and see where it takes you. Happiness is in your future if you just start giving. It will change you and the world.