Happy for a Lifetime
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James
In her book, “The How of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky makes it clear how strongly she believes that relationships are the number one contributor to our survival and longevity. What make relationships so powerful are the two important conditions needed for happy relationships; nurturing relationships and acts of kindness.
In this video Sonja Lyubomirsky focuses on acts of kindness and describes the results from a particular study that she was involved in with a couple of collaborators.
The condensed version of the results is that study participants were told to commit five act of random kindness, with one group completing their task in one day and the other group finishing their task over a week.
While being generous and kind made people happy, which was expected, the effects were only measurable for those who completed their acts of generosity in a single day.
One conclusion is that there is an “optimal timing factor.”
The takeaway is, that in order to benefit there’s a need to commit to a happiness practice and how often you “practice;” the benefit you experience and your chances of success are proportional to your practice.
Related to this idea is that in order to maximize the effect the studies suggest that you need to do more that you are accustomed to.
A second conclusion is that if you regularly commit acts of kindness you will begin to experience happiness for longer periods of time. One caveat to this is you need to vary the “who, what, where, when and why” of your practice, because individuals that repeated the same acts of kinds saw diminished benefits over time. The researchers surmised it became routine and lost any meaning.
The Ways that Act of Kindness Makes People Happy
While kindness at its core is about relieving the suffering of others, it can simultaneously relieve the suffering of the one committing the act of generosity. A side effect of acting to elevate the suffering of other is awakening a sense of appreciation and gratitude for ones own circumstances.
Another benefit that, Lyubomirsky mentions in her book, is the positive impact on our self-perception; thinking of ourselves as compassionate and caring. This new perception or identity brings with it heightened self-confidence and optimism in our abilities, our connections to resources and greater feeling of control of our lives.
The big benefit, possibly the biggest, that the researchers found was that acts of kindness created a “cascade of positive social consequences.” The possible positive benefit was described in “The How of Happiness,” this way…
“Helping others leads people to like you, to appreciate you, to offer gratitude. It also may lead people to reciprocate in your times of need.”
It’s easy to see that there are many ways that happiness can be directly beneficial to you. One example given is volunteering, which has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression.
During the video Sonja used a Chinese Proverb to demonstrate the power of kindness. I thought I would include it here so that it could be bookmarked and shared more easily.
Chinese Proverb: If you want Happiness…
For an Hour – Take a Nap
For a Day – Go Fishing
For a Month – Get Married
For a Year – Inherit a Fortune
For a Lifetime – Help Somebody Else
Now that we’ve discussed acts of kindness, the next step is to introduce the “practice.”