Happiness. It’s those moments your soul lights up, a smile flutters across your face, and your eyes beam with contentment. It’s those moments that are so peaceful, yet incredibly energizing. It’s the moments that you never want to stop. The moments that beam with light and presence.
We all have a deep desire to feel happy, and that’s because happiness is something the mind and body need in order to truly be alive and healthy.
A study was recently published in the research journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. (1) It reviewed more than 150 different studies to see how people defined well-being.
The study is exhaustive and complex, but Time broke it down this way: (2)
“These studies have confirmed, with ‘almost no doubt,’ that happiness really can influence health, says lead author Edward Diener, professor of social psychology at the University of Utah. They’ve also put forth several theories of how this might happen. For one, happy people likely take better care of themselves and choose healthy behaviors—like exercising, eating well and getting adequate sleep—over unhealthy ones. There’s also evidence that happiness can have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems, influence hormones and inflammation levels and speed wound healing. It’s even been linked to longer telomeres, protein caps on the end of chromosomes that get shorter with age. Although there are only a few studies on this topic and more research is needed, ‘the findings are promising in offering a direct tie from psychological well-being to aging and health at the cellular level,’ the authors wrote.”
Happiness isn’t just some feel-good moment in life. Nor is chasing your own personal happiness selfish or self-centered. By working to enhance your own happiness, you create the building blocks for a life of vibrant health and well-being in every aspect, from the DNA within your cells to the friendships and relationships you have.
The Not-So-Secret (But Surprising) Way to Be More Happy
“The more I have, the happier I should be”, you may presume. More money. More prestige. More real estate. More friends. More champagne.
But studies conclude something different. Happiness does not come from possessions. Happiness comes from giving.
“When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, popular culture encourages a focus on oneself,” notes researchers in a study published in the research journal Emotion. (3) “By contrast, substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosaically on others.”
In the study, the researchers followed the study participants for a period of six weeks and measured how different actions affected their mood. They found that when you do deeds of kindness, such as helping a neighbor, your sense of happiness and your positive mood skyrockets.
“The results of this study contribute to a growing literature supporting the benefits of prosocial behavior and challenge the popular perception that focusing on oneself is an optimal strategy to boost one’s mood,” conclude the researchers. “People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves. Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they opt to treat someone else instead.”
And it doesn’t always have to just be actions. Additional research, this time from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, found that simply giving to a charity makes people happier. (4) Regardless of age and gender, giving boosted people’s moods. Interestingly enough, there still WAS a gender difference.
“Men and women experience the increase in happiness differently,” reports the WPI. “Men receive a greater boost when they become donors, while women see a greater jump in happiness when they give more of their income. In households where women drive or participate equally in charitable decisions, the entire family is happier.”
16 Random Acts of Kindness to Try Right Now
Try it for yourself. Do something good for someone else. By being selfless and kind, you’re investing in your own happiness, and thus your own positivity, self-growth, health and wellbeing.
Serve a meal to the homeless, a friend, a neighbor, or someone who needs one
Help your family. Older people (think long-term family friends, your aunt, your grandparents, etc.) are often reluctant to ask for help, so strive to offer it. This could look like stopping by for coffee on the weekend to cheer them up, or picking up their groceries, or mowing their lawn.
Volunteer at a children’s hospital. They often need volunteers for things like cuddling with a newborn or helping to stock and arrange games and art supplies.
Donate clothing, furniture, and other items to those in need.
Create an encouragement wall or bulletin board at a community space, church, school, etc. People can leave positive statements or messages to your community.
Volunteer at a local school.
Visit a senior center or retirement home to simply hang out, play games, or do volunteer work.
Don’t forget the furry friends. Donate used items to a local animal shelter, volunteer to foster an animal in need, or walk the dogs in the kennel.
Speaking of which, lend your furry friend. Many places have programs that need dog or cat volunteers to cheer people up, whether it’s at a hospice facility or a hospital.
Be more conscious of your purchase decisions. From buying local goods to supporting companies that donate to good causes, everyday purchases can make a difference.
Use your knowledge. Tutor kids, teach at an adult camp, etc.
Organize a food drive. Collect cans and other non-perishables to donate to food pantries, shelters, etc.
Be a good neighbor. Volunteer to pick up trash on your street. Organize a neighborhood watch program. Simply stop and say hello when you see a neighbor outside.
Give a ride. Buy a booklet of bus or train transit tickets, then visit different transit stations and hand them out to strangers.
Hold a garage sale with all proceeds from your used items going to a good cause.
Pay for the car behind you in line at the drive-thru window, or the person behind you at a coffee shop.
These are just a few ideas to kick start your brainstorming. Look at the skills you have, the interests you possess, and the things you own, and think about ways to use these blessings to bless others.
The most important thing is to get started. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. You don’t need a million dollars, or have to create a nonprofit foundation. In your own way, and in your own journey, seek out ways to always do good and be kind.
“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito,” Betty Reese once joked. And just like jokes, even small acts of kindness can bring smiles and joy.
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