This all started with the holidays making me think about New Year resolutions. The ending and beginning cycles help us connect to what is important for each one of us. If you were thinking of changing anything about the way you do things in your life, every holiday season to go over your goals and re-energize them. How about using the opportunity to get happier?
As a therapist, I became interested in this happiness issue when I realized that most of the time there is nothing wrong with my clients, yet they are not happy. Most of the time, all they need is to figure out how to be happier. So I looked around and found positive psychology research that focuses on identifying what makes some folks happy and some not.
Rather than make people work on their deficits, positive psychology takes a more constructive stance and helps you go in the direction of what you actually would like to build in your life, based on your individual strengths.
The good news I did some research on what makes people happy and I found out that it is not that complicated. Research shows that people that are happier than others do a few things in a few areas that result in a happier life. So…what are the secrets?
Today I am going to focus on the first thing you can do to make a happier life. The first thing you can do is to do something nice for others. When you do something nice for others, you get very strong rewards.
Everybody knows that doing something nice for others makes you feel nice inside. We all can think of someone in our life that can use an extra hand or needs assistance. One of the things I do is to shovel snow for older folk that live in my neighbourhood. I sometimes even do it for a random person, just for the exercise, and the bonus feeling of thrill I get from doing it.
If you keep your mind open, you will find small things that are available all day long that you can do. Things you can do are as simple as deciding to hold the door open for someone, or exercising your generosity every time someone asks you, without any rules about why you wouldn’t, giving at least two coins every time. Why? Helping others makes you see yourself positively.
We are happier when we see ourselves doing good and doing well. Our sense of self improves and helps us see ourselves in a more balanced way. At the very least, you will enjoy the feeling of knowing that you did something nice, which will add to the good things that may be happening in your day.
Happiness also comes from feeling connected. We are happier when we connect on the basis of kindness. We humans are primates, “engineered” by nature for living in community. When we do something nice for others, we exercise a natural tendency to be nice, and we act on our connection with others.
The look in the other person’s eyes, their humanity opening to you, feeds into the wiring we have which primes us to want to feel connected and part of the pack. When I experience this, I tend to feel a bit self-conscious and vulnerable, but also get an amazing sense of having brought something positive into the world, something we can use more of: kindness and love. Since we are all connected, i believe that putting some loving-kindness into the world will eventually result in receiving some of the kindness back!
At the very least, you will enjoy the feeling of knowing that you did something nice, which will add to the good things that may be happening in your day. This can help add one more positive thing to your own life, which may be the tiny thing that tips the balance away from any negativity that you may be experiencing.
So go ahead, do something randomly nice for someone else. You can even start to volunteer regularly to ensure that you keep feeling the positivity that comes from helping others again and again.