Why do I write so much about things like happiness, resiliency and wellbeing? Because I believe if you have these things in your life the majority of the time, you will have better connections, more caring, make better choices and have the ability to solve problems creatively. And in the state the world is in today, we need people to forge relationships into communities that help others overcome adversity. Here is a little story to illustrate the point…
A single mom, let’s call her Sally, was not happy and felt quite alone in the world. She had some friends at work that kept asking her to join them for a playdate. She always refused – she was way too busy. But one day, for a reason she doesn’t remember, she agreed. As the moms (could be some dads in there too, just for the sake of the story staying with moms) sat together watching their kids play at the park, several of them were lamenting that it was so hard to prepare good meals for their children on a limited budget. Sally’s ears perked up. She loved to cook, and being a single mom, she had found creative ways to stretch her food budget and prepare meals quickly and healthfully. She shared some of that knowledge with her group. They listened, and asked if she would share some of her recipes and tricks. She gathered their email addresses and said she would.
When she got home, energized by the conversation, she picked a few of her favorites and emailed them. The other moms enthusiastically tried them out, loved them, and asked for more. One of the recipes called for a slow cooker. A member of the group said she did not have one, and another member emailed that she had 2, and would be happy to donate the 2nd one. Not only did Sally continue to share her knowledge about food shopping, but it turned out each mom in the group had a particular skill or knowledge base that helped the other moms. What started as a simple playdate, created a caring community that was committed to solving each other’s issues and make better food choices for their children.
What could be the eventual outcome of this very simple story? Maybe one of the mom’s has more time to spend with her child because she puts the slow cooker on in the morning and doesn’t have to worry about making dinner that night. That child, spending more time with his/her mom, grows up to be more confident, perhaps better at school because there is more together time for homework. That child graduates at the top of his/her class, goes to college, and creates a medicine that successfully treats a childhood disease. Not to mention the child is healthy because his/her mom learned to cook nutritional food to fuel his/her learning. The possibilities are endless!
What if Sally never went to that playdate? She would have stayed mired in her day to day, miserable, alone and unhappy. But she did. And not only did her fellow moms benefit from their interaction with Sally, but SHE benefited as well. She found a community she could relate to that cared about her, her child, and her issues. And let’s think even bigger. What if her friends encouraged Sally to start a blog about her recipes and tricks for feeding kids on a budget, and it became hugely popular and successful? Now her impact has gone beyond her group to the nation and maybe even the world. It really is quite incredible when you think of it that way.
So that is why I write about being happy and healthy. Everyone has a gift, and sometimes it can remain undiscovered if the person is just trying to survive every day, or is angry, resentful, bored, you name it. The world needs more people to discover their gift and share it with their neighbor, spouse, co-worker, whomever. The contribution they make could go way beyond that one person.
So who needs some help geting happy? Here are five easy tips to help you. Find just one that resonates with you and commit to practicing it for a few minutes a day–maybe in the car on the way to work, while you make dinner, do laundry, exercise, get ready for bed. Find your gift and share.
- Savor your daily experiences. Pause to delight in the smell of a flower, the sight of a hummingbird, or like Proust, the taste of a madeleine.
- Get involved in meaningful volunteer activities. Research shows that giving to others can make both the giver and the receiver feel happier. Also, seeing less fortunate people can make you more grateful for what you have.
- Find a more optimistic point of view. Is there a way to look at your life with more hope or appreciation? Can you focus on your strengths and achievements, rather than beating yourself up for your failures?
- Practice gratitude. Research shows that writing daily or weekly gratitude diaries or writing letters of appreciation can improve your mood and your health.
- Meditate. Meditation actually changes areas of the brain related to managing stress and regulating mood. Long-term meditators are more able to find and maintain positive states like joy and compassion. Research studies by Richard Davidson and colleagues also found that long-term meditators also have increased brain activity in areas related to happiness.