Are you less happy than you’d like to be? If so, here’s a solution that might surprise you: Go out of your way to make other people happy.
I know this sounds a little counter-intuitive. After all, how can you cheer up other people if you’re down in the dumps yourself? But research shows that almost any act of kindness, from complimenting a friend to doing volunteer work for a charity, boosts your own level of happiness.
In particular, you can kick your happiness up a notch by paying it forward. This means thinking about kind things that other people have done for you, and repaying their kindness by doing a good deed for someone else. In effect, you’re creating a “ripple” of happiness, and that makes you feel extra-good about yourself.
There are lots of ways to pay it forward, and part of the fun lies in coming up with ideas. For instance:
- Are you grateful to an animal rescue group that saved the puppy or kitten who became your best buddy? Then donate money to help another family pay their adoption fee.
- Are you thankful to a medical team who cared for you when you were ill or injured? Consider donating blood so you can help out another person in crisis.
- Do you feel all warm and fuzzy when your boss or coworkers praise your work? Pass on the favor by posting positive online reviews about restaurants and businesses that provide you with stellar service.
- Did a wise mentor offer you aid and advice when you were just starting out in your career? If so, find a newbie of your own to take under your wing.
- Did your parents foster your love of reading by taking you to the library every week? Pay it forward by making a list of the books you loved most as a kid and donating brand-new copies of them to your library, a local hospital, or a homeless shelter.
- Are you grateful to friends who really listen to you when you talk about your hopes, fears, or dreams? Then spend time listening with all of your attention to someone else—whether it’s an elderly grandparent or a little niece or nephew.
- Did your mom or dad send you “care packages” when you were away at college? Follow their lead by donating a much-needed gift to an active military member.
- Did someone make you happy by saying, “You matter to me”? Then write a note to thank someone who’s made a big difference in your own life—for instance, a teacher, a pastor, or a helpful relative.
- Did family members lend a hand financially when you were just starting out? If so, do the same for the next generation! If you can afford it, a wonderful gift for a person who wants to eat healthy is a one-season membership in a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization. If that’s too pricy, contribute some nice pots and pans, a well-stocked spice rack, or a grocery store gift card.
Why does paying it forward help to lift the blues? Because doing good deeds simply makes you feel good! Also, each time you pay it forward, it takes your mind off your own troubles for at least a few minutes—and “getting out of your own head” is one of the best ways to get happier. Finally, paying it forward reminds you to be grateful to all of the people who’ve helped and mentored you throughout your life.
So give it a try, and start your own chain of kindness today. You’ll be making the world happier… starting with yourself!
Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!