“You need to give him some space.” I don’t know how many times I have said that to my kids over the last couple of years. They love our dog so much. Too much sometimes. They smother him with their affection and occasionally it will get too much for him and he will stand up and move away. He never gets upset with them, but in his patient, caring way, he communicates that he has had enough of their love and requires some space.
The kids don’t really understand and get upset about it, to which I reply, “Just wait. He will come back when he is ready, and when you have settled down a bit. But the more you chase him the more he will avoid you”.
It got me thinking about happiness and a quote from Viktor Frankl:
“Happiness cannot be pursued. It must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy”.
What I think he is saying is that happiness is not the goal of life. The pursuit of happiness is folly. If we pursue meaning, that will bring about happiness. Happiness will come after we find our meaning.
Meaning, for most of us, is usually based around the people in our life. Our families, friends, people we serve in our career, or in the community. If we can find it, then happy moments will appear, even if there are challenges and difficulties.
The more we chase after happiness, the more it will avoid us. Once we find our meaning, and have settled down a bit, happiness will come to us.
Giving is better than receiving. It’s a cliché for a reason – it is so widely used because it is true. Which is amazing because I love receiving. How good is it to get a thoughtful gift? Receiving something new creates an amazing physiological response in our body, excitement, joy and happiness. It changes our mood.
Giving away a thoughtful gift also has an amazing physiological response in our body. It creates joy and a sense of fulfilment at the sight of someone we care about getting excited, feeling joy and being happy. The difference is that the feeling you get when you give something thoughtful to someone else, lasts longer than their feelings of excitement, joy and happiness at receiving the gift.
It’s feels counterintuitive but a new toy loses its shine super quick (be that an actual toy or a new iPhone), but the feeling of joy the giver has, lasts a lot longer. There is a great sense of fulfilment that comes when you realise that you are the type of person who is generous.
“I act generously” – is a great statement to say about yourself.
It’s sounds much better than “I love getting gifts from people”.
Giving is better than receiving.
Famous basketball coach, John Wooden, said when we give away three of the things we want most, ‘happiness, freedom, and peace of mind’, that’s when we actually receive them. Which is the great, mystical law of generosity – it is by giving generously to others that we receive an abundance. Often we get more than we give.
So, instead of being fearful of running out and experiencing a lack, which stifles generosity, we can be assured that there is enough to go around, with leftovers. Enough happiness. Enough freedom. Enough peace of mind. Enough money. Enough food.
At this point, you might (rightfully so) have some questions. If there is enough of these things, plus leftovers, why do we currently experience a lack of some, maybe all, of them in the world today?
This lack exists because people hold on too tightly to what they have. Because generosity is missing, which creates people who are unhappy, trapped and anxious. Wealthy, but anxious.
So be generous. Give away happiness, freedom, and peace of mind to others. It will serve them and you.
How do you give happiness, freedom, and peace of mind away? That’s the question that only you can answer. (But it probably starts with giving some money).
Too much of a good thing can still ruin your day. My wife made the most amazing pasta the other night. It is one of my favourite meals and I ate a significant amount of it. Even as I was still eating I said,
“I have eaten too much”
Then I continued to shovel pasta into my mouth.
It was amazing. Until it wasn’t. And later, it wasn’t amazing at all when I felt ill. I ruined a good thing by overdoing it.
We are lucky with food though, because most of the time we know when we have had enough, and we can stop eating and enjoy what we have consumed.
There are other things in life that don’t give you that signal that you have had enough. Money is the main one. How much is enough? Do you have an answer to that question? Or are you just working for more?
It’s something that most of us just drift into. The process of desiring more and more money so that we will have enough to buy that house, pay off the house, buy that car, go on that holiday, buy that other house. It becomes a never ending cycle. We would be wise to make a conscious decision of when enough will be enough. How much do we actually need, and then what do we do with the excess (giving some of it away is always a good idea). It’s such an important process because if we are unable to figure out what our enough is, then we are at the whim of the mighty dollar, which is a very scary place to be.
You will never be happy when enough isn’t. – Seneca
Here are some things that I have learned about happiness…
I cannot make anyone happy. However hard I try. It is just not possible for me to do that. They chose whether they are happy or not with me in their life. This doesn’t give me permission to be a jerk, but it does take the stress away when I acknowledge that I’m not in charge of their happiness. It’s not my job to make people happy.
If you are not happy where you are, do something. It’s simple but not easy because you only have two options, you can change your situation or you can change your perspective of your situation. Eckart Tolle said that if you are not happy then “change the situation by taking action…leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness”
Either way, you are in charge of your own happiness.
In light of the above two, this one is key. The happiest people on the planet are generous. Generosity is the quickest, sure-fire way to get to a happy place. People are generous because they are grateful. Gratitude does not come from happiness. Happiness comes from gratitude.
“Happiness does not lead to gratitude. Gratitude leads to happiness.” Monk David Steindl-Rast
I find happiness to be elusive. One minute I will feel happy, the next minute the coffee I was drinking is finished, or the weather changed, or one of the kids is loud, or the series I was binging has finished.
This sort of happiness seems so fickle because it is entirely dependent upon what is happening to me and my focus is only on what I am consuming. I hate that. I want to be someone that is always happy, no matter what is going on around them.
Bob Dylan said that happy is a ‘yuppie word’. It’s a word that gets used by people who are so fortunate in their life that they have time to think about whether they are happy or not. He went on to say that ‘it’s not happiness or unhappiness, it’s either blessed or unblessed.’
I don’t know what unblessed looks like, but I know that if I have air in my lungs, enough food to eat, a roof over my head and people in my life that love me, then I am blessed – and that makes me happy.
We are discovering that money, whilst it can’t buy long term happiness, can in fact buy short term happiness (happiness blips), if we spend it on the right thing. Things like the right experience which can create a memory that last a lifetime, rather than a physical thing that depreciates and collects dust over a lifetime. Also, spending money on specific brands – you know, the ones that go out of their way to create a relationship with you which build a customer loyalty bordering on the fanatical. Or on those larger purchases that we have been dreaming of for a long time – big screen TV, or the furniture we have been waiting so long for. These can all create some form of happiness.
But, to get the best form of happiness from money, and to discover the key to a meaningful life, is to spend money on someone else. Studies have suggested this for a while, that we can find happiness in a generous act, and that as our incomes increase the levels of happiness we experience do not correlate. Meaning that our level of happiness does not increase at the same rate as our level of income – there is a certain point when our income level has no impact on how happy we. Perhaps that is because we are not spending our money on things that will create happiness, or perhaps it’s what Dave Ramsay suggests,
“Money won’t make you happy. Money just makes you more of what you already are”.
To find happiness and real purpose with our money is to spend
it on someone else, donate it to charity or otherwise give it away. This will
dramatically increases our level of happiness. Doing it once might make you
happy for a day, but making it a lifelong habit can make a lasting difference
in your life, and the lives of others.
“You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice,” says Prof. Phillipe Tobler.
What is the secret to a long life? People love to search for that life hack that we can use which will magically make us live past 100. I’m sure you have seen the stories on the news of a person who has reached the amazing century and they all get asked what their secret is. There answers are usually anything from eating well, to getting enough sleep, or walking regularly, or never fighting with friends, or eating sushi everyday (to be honest, I think that last one was from a guy in Japan so it may not be relevant).
What if there was something else? What if we have been
missing a key ingredient?
I think we have…and it is generosity.
Not only does generosity make you feel good and increase happiness, we now know that it can make you live longer. A recent study discovered that those who participated in acts of generosity (giving of time and money to others) had reduced stress levels which is a known risk factor for many diseases. But not a minor reduction in stress, their generosity had reduced their stress levels so much that it was no longer a factor in predicting their mortality. Meaning that for those people, stress had been taken off the list of things that could kill them. Their generosity reduced their mortality rate more than exercising four times a week and going to church regularly (which both improve mental health and longevity – so perhaps do all of the above).
So, if you are looking for a long, happy and healthy life,
discover how you can be a little more generous.
It is something that studies have revealed frequently over the last decade, generosity is good for you. It feels good and it improves happiness.
It also turns out that the specific type of generous act can have an impact as well. A study was done to see what happens to the brain when people act generously. People were given the opportunity to give money to someone that they knew (someone they had been introduced to in the study) who needed it, a charity or to themselves. Now it is no surprise that when the study participants chose to give money to someone they knew who needed it, or to a charity, they felt good – better than when they gave it to themselves. The areas of the brain that ‘lit up’ where those that are linked to the reward system, providing a feeling of satisfaction and happiness. This is a common finding in a number of studies.
What was surprising is that when the participants chose to
give money to someone that they knew, this action, which is called targeted
support, was associated with diminished activity in the amygdala. The amygdala
gets a great deal of attention nowadays because it is the section of the brain
which is connected to emotions, the fight or flight response, anxiety, phobias
and post traumatic stress disorder. This diminished activity leads to less
anxiety and other mental health issues. Generosity is good for your mental
But it must be heartfelt rather than begrudgingly done. To
get the true benefits of generosity for your mental health it is best to be
generous on purpose. Be intentional with who and what you are giving to.
‘From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’
Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to be so happy all the time? It can be quite disconcerting as you go about your day, struggling through your afternoon slump, stressing about your upcoming deadline, cursing how quickly your last coffee was consumed, and then Mr. or Mrs. Happy pop up and share their joy of life with you, offer you a helpful suggestion with your deadline and source another coffee for you. I mean, who do they think they are? Even if you can’t think of someone you know who is like this, believe me, they are out there.
The most amazing thing is that when you find out more about these people and hear their story, you usually discover that they have had to endure, and possibly still are enduring, some incredibly difficult life circumstances, tragedy and loss. It is most often unfair and sad, yet there they stand with a smile on their face. Not a fake one either (I thought that was their trick for a while, but it is real happiness).
It turns out that, whilst not everyone who goes through hardship surfaces with a happy demeanour, those that do manage to find something in life that they are grateful for. It is a conscious effort, every day to find the good things they have and over time, that sense of gratitude overflows into generosity towards others. Gratitude breeds generosity, in all areas of life. You cannot stop it.
All action that we take is motivated by something internal.