the secret to How to be happy.
We all want to be happy. Happiness is something we all strive for. I mean I’m super into it. I also feel like lately we are all understanding more that caring for ourselves matters. Especially for our happiness. The phrase “self-care” certainly is thrown around a bunch lately. It is not just bubble baths and manicures though. (While I do love a nice deep soak.) Self-care is many things. Recently I learned something. Being kind to others actually increases our happiness. Kindness is really the best self-care.
Let me begin with my personal journey to happiness and being kind.
So no big deal but I am a Yale grad. Well a one course grad. Well I took a free online course from a Yale Professor, Laurie Santos, on Coursea called The Science of Well Being. So now my alma mater is the same as Rory Gilmore’s and I use the phrase Yale grad liberally. 😉 But it seriously is an amazing course.
At the beginning of quarantine time Coursea began offering this course at no cost! I was intrigued because a) I dig happiness and b) I love science! I’m not one to read too many self-helpy things (Because ain’t no one gonna tell me what to do lol) but this attracted me. Also I figured it was a good time to work on improving my life’s happiness. I highly recommend this course. I learned the reasoning behind why our brains function the way they do and also what to do to cultivate happiness on a daily basis.
Simply learning why our brains think they way they do will not make us happy. It’s the doing. There are many things we can do to help us be happier folk. Course spoiler alert! From gratitude, to meditation, sleep, and simply being kind.
Being kind to others and doing kind things literally makes us happier!
This one really struck a cord for me. Self help actually doesn’t have to be about you! HELP SOMEONE ELSE! In return you will be rewarded with your own increase in happiness.
There is research to back this up so you don’t have to take it from me.
Elizabeth Dunn, from the University of British Columbia studied this and published her work. She specifically looked at spending money on others and the happiness we receive. I’ll simplify one of her experiments to explain. So in one of her research studies subjects were given envelopes of money that ranged from $5 to $20. Some participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves and the other participants were to spend the entire amount on other people all by 5pm. After 5 they were called and their happiness was rated. The group that spent that money on others was HAPPIER!!! If you dig that you can check out her book too.
That is just one example of kindness and how it creates happiness. You can take this course yourself and learn even more how our brains react to being kind and how this correlates to increasing our happiness.
When it comes to giving money away I have also learned we appreciate it more if we know exactly where our dollars are going and how it will be used. So while donating to a big non-profit feels good…. we may get a bigger burst of happiness if we know exactly the way our money is being used. For instance if we know our dollars are going towards new equipment for research we may get a bigger uptick in feeling good than simply donating. Picturing our dollars in action helps our brains feel better about the donation.
Donating money isn’t the only way to be kind of course!
Set aside 10 minutes of your day and call an old friend. Or maybe your mother! Moms love hearing from their children! Do something genuine without expecting anything in return. Send a note or a letter to someone. Give extra compliments today! Take a moment and brainstorm where you can be intentionally kind to someone else.
So yes, while you are absolutely amazing and deserve “me time,” you may find that happiness boost you are longing for simply by helping someone else today.
If you want more guidance and information on happiness you can also check out Yale Professor, Laurie Santos, on her podcast appropriately named The Happiness Lab.
In a world that can feel awfully heavy currently, I hope you are inspired to be kind today! Not only for the ones you help but for yourself.
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Authored by: Andrea Stainbrook