Happiness – A Closer Look
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens
“Why do bad things always happen to me?” “Why can’t I catch a break? “How could they treat me like that?” “When will I be happy again?”
We’ve all struggled with similar thoughts to the ones above at some point or another in our lives. It’s easy to let the edges of our heart grow hard as more bitter than sweet seeps through our relationships, circumstances, and emotions. It’s easy to focus on how we get the short end of the deal. It’s easy to place on other people the expectation of making us happy. It’s human nature even to hyper-focus on ourselves. But is it working?
Do those actions and thought processes helps us feel “happier”?
True happiness, joy even, is rarely (if ever) found in circumstances, but within us and in our attitudes and perspectives. There are some simple changes in our attitudes and perspective that speed us along the path of happiness. One of those changes is a focus on helping others, rather than obsessing over ourselves. It can happen in big and small ways, but as you make one decision a habit, you’ll sense the edges of your heart softening as you making helping others a a way of life.
A great way to stretch yourself and help others is to get involved with a local program that fosters mentoring relationships between you and a child/teen in need of support. Programs like Big Brother Big Sister, Whiz Kids (and other after school tutoring programs) and The Mentoring Project are excellent programs that pair you up with a child or teen that need a consistent, positive adult role model in their life. You may not think you can do or offer much, but even consistent encouragement on school work, a smiling face, and wisdom in the area of friends, family and school lift a kid in need up more than you’ll ever realize. When you see their face light up, when they offer a hug or a “thank you” for listening to them, joy and happiness will light up your face as well.
Creating for others is another great way to foster an attitude of happiness and joy in your own life. One project might be to make cards or simple wreaths for a local nursing home or assisted living apartments. Gather a group of friends (spending time with them will make you happy in and of itself!) and craft some wreaths to brighten the doors of assisted living apartments or some cards to encourage and love on the elderly. We are designed to be creators, not just consumers, and by gifting something homemade to someone else, happiness and joy will make themselves right at home in your life.
Whether it’s welcoming a new neighbor or watching a friend’s kids for the afternoon or mowing an elderly friend’s lawn, giving of our time and resources is a powerful way to show others they are valued and will in turn add joy and happiness to our life. Maybe you can bring a potted succulent or homemade pumpkin bread to your new neighbor. Maybe your friends need a date night badly and watching their kids will be a huge blessing. Maybe your elderly friend or grandparent just wants someone to listen to their stories. We may never know the dividends our kindness reaps in someone else’s life. Like the Dickens quote at the beginning of the article, we may not realize the burdens we can lift in someone else’s life, but we often underestimate what it does in our life.
Looking for ways to help others is not a cozy sentiment we focus on during the holiday season. It’s not something to just check off an ever-growing to-do list. It’s a lifestyle. It takes practice. It takes moving beyond how we “feel,” to making decisions that become a habit. But giving to others and helping others is always, always worth it.
How can you help someone today?