Happiness Club - Giving
I read about the Happiness Club idea in Psychologies magazine when I was on the train home from an overnight Spa break with my sister. I knew instantly that it was something I wanted to do and felt excited straight away. I didn’t have the comedown from the Spa break I expected! I emailed to be one of the Club Founders from the train station waiting for my connecting train home and it made me feel so energised. The feeling I get whenever I do anything to take control of my own happiness is so empowering and exhilarating that I knew I’d love to be in a Happiness Club, committing to each Key to Happiness and discovering along the way how that made me feel. I wanted to find friends to join me as soon as I could and I was delighted that I had 6 friends who said yes. I was ready to plan in the first date when I had an email congratulating me on being a Club Founder! I couldn’t wait to share it with the Club. We set about organising a good day for everyone to meet, which was no mean feat! Eventually we found a date most could commit to – Wednesday 25th February.
Happiness Club 1 – Giving
The day of the meeting a friend, who couldn’t make that night, emailed me with her thoughts on the Giving article, and ways that she had already, and ways that she would, commit to Giving over the next month. During the evening I read this email to the Club as well as the Giving article in Psychologies and it seemed that after every couple of sentences we all had a story to tell or an idea of what we could do. It was a brilliant, positive evening, we didn’t stop talking about Giving for 2 hours and here are some of the things we discussed:
Gross National Happiness
One Club Member mentioned that there’s a country that uses Gross National Happiness as a way to measure success or wellbeing instead of economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. We all thought this was a much better idea. Money doesn’t make people happy despite it seeming that we are told from every source that it does. Perhaps if the emphasis was on Happiness itself, we would be a happier country.
In the email from my friend, she said that one of the things she’d give more of is compliments, genuine compliments. She explained that people are always in such a rush nowadays, they don’t sometimes take the time to say nice things and so a compliment can be a rare surprise. The Club talked about this and how it’s important that compliments like this are genuine. A couple of us felt we would commit to noticing more what others at home and work have done, to give a thank you more and to recognise effort instead of taking things for granted.
Giving as a martyr
This created the most discussion. We all felt we were a group of natural givers but also that we can sometimes feel resentful. We actually decided to give less as a result and how giving less (as a martyr) could lead to giving more (sincerely). It was an interesting analysis.This is because you might give more if you give consciously when you choose to and be more selective about the things you give that you resent. We imagine this will lead to more happiness.
Giving to charity
We discussed the part in the article explaining people who give some of their monthly income to charitable causes felt happier as a result. We were assuming this was by way of a Standing Order or Give as You Earn. I’ve done GAYE before and felt like I preferred giving what I could in person rather than by a monthly automated transaction.We felt that if you give to charity but don’t physically give the money or process the bank transfer it would have less of an impact on your happiness than doing the physical act of giving. One of the Club Members used an example from Maimonides hierarchy of happiness which actually said the most genuine form of giving is that in which you don’t see a reaction (i.e. the standing order) whereas the giving face to face would be at the bottom level. This surprised us and if we were honest, we felt that we would be happier having seen a reaction.
Giving to yourself
A bought pudding!
We weren’t sure if this was exactly what we should have been focussing our energies on but the more we talked about giving to others and describing how much we give now in different circumstances, the more we were suggesting that actually stepping back and giving back to yourself would make us happier. For example, feeling the pressure to make a 3 course meal for dinner guests after cleaning the house ready for their arrival just seems a little crazy when you have a young family to look after. We decided we could give a bought pudding instead and give us a bit more time to relax and be calm when the friends arrived!
Another way to give to yourself is to not compare yourself to others who do seem to give selflessly all the time. It might work for them but maybe it doesn’t for you. It’s about recognising who you are and what you’re comfortable doing.
Another way to give to yourself is to accept help from others, even if it’s not how you’d imagined. For example, if you are gathering some people together for a party for someone else and someone in the group suggests a venue or entertainment that you didn’t have in mind, instead of saying ‘no’ and going forward taking control of everything so it’s just as you imagined, maybe just say yes. Let them help. Accept the help.
Giving is a choice
Lots of examples of giving throughout the evening were actually examples of people taking from us, leaving it difficult for us to say no. It was suggested that giving has to be a choice, so if someone is taking from us or taking us for granted, it’s okay to say no. That doesn’t reflect badly on us or our kindness.
We had a quick review of how people have given to us, unconditionally, recently.
Examples of how people have given to us are:
*One member of the Club explained that when she experienced some bad news recently her neighbours and friends rallied round, offering meals, ironing, to help with chores etc. It left her feeling blessed despite going through a difficult time.
*I had a few different groups of friends visit me in January over a 10 day period and was given 4 bunches of flowers – for no reason!
*Another Club member described the things her parents do to help her unconditionally all the time. She felt very thankful.
*Another Club member described her friends kind act to drive out to get a signal on her phone recently to get hold of a Doctor when they were away together. She went in her PJ’s and didn’t seem to bat an eyelid; she just wanted to help and did what she could.
There were lots of different things we all said we’d do in the coming month. We have thought of specific examples but we expect that as we will be looking for the chance to give something each day, our acts of giving will be more spontaneous.
Ideas of how we could give are:
*Give more smiles
*Given an unexpected gift.
A couple of people suggested this. One Club member elaborated with a story about how she’d bought a friend a tea-towel for her birthday because she saw it in a charity shop and it had dogs on it and her friend loves dogs. So she bought it - £2.50 – and kept it for her birthday. It made her laugh because it was only £2.50 but after having had our chats tonight she said she’d give that tea-towel to her straight away this time. That would make her friend happier, as it’s unexpected and make herself happier too. A few of us said that we’d do this in future if we notice a gift we could afford for a friend; get it anyway, even if it’s not their birthday.
*Offer to babysit for friends
*Phone people for a catch up instead of just texting, email or Facebook
*Give a genuine compliment
*Let people out when you’re driving. I do this already after reading an article a few years ago. It’s become a habit and I love it because I get a little smile and a thank you and I feel happy and calm.
*Park more kindly
*Listen more attentively
*Buy an extra bunch of flowers at the Supermarket and give to a friend, or even a stranger!
We are feeling positive and excited about committing to giving and I’m already looking forward to hearing everyone’s review of how that felt for them.
See you next month!