3 life-affirming activities that increase happiness
My friend is an avid reader and philosopher of the state of our emotions. She told me about the phrase, “committee of joy.”
Have you known someone who always seems to be happy? Think about those people who just do things that make others feel good. When you’re down and discouraged, who do you want to talk to?
That person is a “committee of joy.”
Why are some people chronically upbeat and positive?
Genetics can be attributed — at least in part — to whether or not you have a happy outlook.
One study found that people with more long alleles of the 5-HTTLPR gene (a serotonin transporter gene) tended to be happier than those with a fewer number. 50% of life satisfaction is due to genetics. But genetic predisposition is only part of the picture.
Can you be happier than you are now even if you’re not blessed with that genetic tendency? Could you become a committee of joy?
Your happiness quota is also affected by what activities you choose to do. In fact, 40% of your life satisfaction is attributed to intentional activities, and only 10% is based on external events.
Start with practicing gratitude
I have a book that I’ve kept on my shelves for years. It’s a book from 1996 by Sara Ban Breathnach: The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Every day you were supposed to record five things you were thankful for. It’s amazing how counting your blessings can help you recognize your own happiness.
Think about all the things you have. Contemplate the theory that you may already own everything you need to make yourself happy. Understand the old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. Make a list. Mine includes the warmth and security of a modest home. The sound of raindrops on my roof at night. Holding someone you love in your arms. A sense of humor. The ability to sleep. When the repair bill is less than you expected. The success of your children.
Get the idea? Gratitude comes in being cognizant of what you have.
Show compassion for others
Volunteer work and kind deeds do wonders for your soul, not to mention how much it helps other people.
A study done on women with Multiple Sclerosis showed that the women who helped other women with the same disease had more positive changes than the people they were helping.
Doing good things for other people help you by broadening social networks, keeping you connected, increasing your physical activity, and improving your self-confidence and altruism.
You don’t even have to join an organization. Do random acts of kindness: Pay for a stranger’s meal in a restaurant. Treat the person behind you in a drive-through to an unexpected fast-food freebie. Help an older person with unloading their grocery cart and packing the car.
Smile more. It’s infectious, and it’s a simple kindness that may be the only good thing that happens to someone else that day.
By helping others, you help yourself be happy.
“Live Like You Were Dying…”
Thank you, Tim McGraw — and Marilyn French.
Marilyn French wrote an essay that I’ve kept in my idea-journal for years. She wrote of her fight with esophageal cancer saying,
“My illness shriveled the future up and blew it away. I rarely think further than the next day. I silently precede every statement of commitment with ‘if I live’….Losing the future is the best thing that every happened to me. My desires are now limited to the present and the immediate future — that is a few hours hence. Stuck in the present, I can devote myself to it, to daily pleasures, pleasure in the moment, pleasure in everything (or almost everything) I do. I no longer have large scale desires. I have only small desires — for a glass of cold orange juice, a good book, a visit with someone I love. I have noticed that my laugh has changed, is more spontaneous, deeper. I am almost serene.”
Perhaps, for some people, facing death changes their perspective. Maybe priorities are clearer and what’s important in life comes to the forefront.
But you don’t have to be faced with a tragedy to start finding your own sense of gladness.
Live in the present. Be grateful for your blessings. Help others. Make a choice to be a committee of joy. You’ll be amazed at how much happiness you find — for yourself — and for others.