It's not always easy to feel happy. Sometimes you feel like you have low-to-no life satisfaction because everything is always going wrong. Sometimes it's easy to let negative emotions get the best of you. It is up to us to improve our mental wellbeing. The good news is that living a happier life is much simpler to achieve than you think.
What is the secret to "how to feel happier"? The simple answer is helping people out.
Why does helping people out improve our happiness?
Have you ever noticed that when you help people out, it feels really good? A study published by the Journal of Happiness Studies exploring this exact topic. They found that:
Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.
In this study, participants found that spending money on others boosted happiness and wellbeing for themselves. It doesn't require you to be a happiness expert to understand lifting others up leads to greater happiness for yourself.
Another study published about volunteering showed some interesting ties between giving your time and happiness. This study suggested that your health and your happiness improve when you volunteer your time. Here are their findings below:
We propose that volunteering might contribute to happiness levels by increasing empathic emotions, shifting aspirations and by moving the salient reference group in subjective evaluations of relative positions from the relatively better-off to the relatively worse-off.
This research suggests that taking care of people who are more disadvantaged than yourself allows you to practice gratitude. It's not about helping people with a fake smile. It's about truly taking care of people. When you are able to spend time to bless others, you experience the positive emotions of the peer-to-peer connection.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, step 12 of the program is:
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In order for an alcoholic to achieve continued sobriety, they must actively help other alcoholics. Only when an alcoholic is ready to help others can they prevent their own relapse. If you told any suffering alcoholic that you can reduce their relapse rate just by giving their time and love to others, they will tell you its a small sacrifice for the gift of a life freed from addiction.
One of the books that dramatically shifted my perspective about how to feel happier is The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. In short:
- We become more successful when we lead a happier life (not the other way around).
- Being satisfied with life comes from the joy of achieving our full potential.
- Happiness is a habit that dramatically changes your life.
- Reframe failure as an opportunity for future growth.
Spend more time thinking of your life as a marathon instead of a 100-meter dash. As Tony Robbins says:
Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in two or three decades.
If you want to see long-lasting change, stop seeking short-term fixes and start looking for long-term habits. For example, if you want to improve your body image, start exercising today. At the same time, understand that exercise is a life-long commitment and not a weeklong fix. When you begin to commit to your long terms goals and falling in love with the journey, you will begin to see your true potential fulfilled.
Happiness comes with many benefits, such as the ability to reduce stress, improved immune system, and overall improved health. If you are struggling with finding happiness today, start by reminding yourself that this world does not function without you. Remind yourself that if you didn't exist, this world would be a completely different place. Treat yourself with a little grace and start looking for the good in your life. Enjoy some fresh air and exercise to immediately boost your mood. Know that you can improve your happiness today by putting others ahead of yourself. Start by contributing your unique set of qualities and talents to the world and see what comes out the other side. We live in a connected world, and it's more important than ever to remember that we need to care for each other.