Month 1: Happiness Club Giving
With our partners Action for Happiness, we invite you to create your own Happiness Club in your home in order to spread a little happiness. This month, our focus is giving.
I am very excited to be starting out on our Happiness Club experiment with you. Can we really design a happier life for ourselves in 2015? I feel like I’ve been chasing happiness for a long time. I lost my parents to cancer when I was young and learnt we can’t always change what happens to us on the outside but we can change how we think and feel on the inside. This started me on a 30 year long odd happiness experiment of my own.
When I first started out I believed that there was such a thing as a person who had it all sorted, and if only I could improve myself enough, then I would finally get the gold star of happiness.Over the years, I’ve realised life is messy because humans are messy – and the quickest way to contentment is to embrace our humaness – our brilliance and our crappy bits – focus on our brilliance and have a sense of humour about the rest.
The good news is that because of the new study of positive psychology, we’re lucky that we can now choose to indulge in ‘happy practices’ that are scientifically proven to put a smile on your face.
So I love it that we will be following this scientifically proven menu with our guide and partner for the year the charity Action for Happiness. They have given us the ten scientifically proven keys to happiness and we will be focussing on one per month. I’ve chosen four of my favourite people to join me on my journey – we will be meeting once a month ate each others’ houses to focus on one ‘key’ per month and together we aim to create our happiest year yet.
The first key to happiness: Giving
Our first month’s key to happiness is giving. Kindness, it seems, is the superpower of happiness. A recent study showed that when people were asked to conduct five new acts of kindness on one day per week over a six-week period (even if each act was small) those people experienced a big increase in well-being. And not only will kindness impact our own well being but also lead to a virtuous circle - happiness makes us give more, and giving makes us happier, which leads to a greater tendency to give and so on. Generally, there are strong associations between happiness and helping others. Firstly, happiness helps helping. Happy people are more likely to be interested in or be inclined towards helping others. They are more likely to have recently performed acts of kindness or spent a greater percentage of their time or money helping others. Volunteering is also related to increased happiness. What's more people who give a proportion of their monthly income to chartable causes or spent it on gifts for others were found to be happier than people who did not spend on others, and this was regardless of income level.
Can you give too much?
All good and well but I must admit my heart sank, when I read that the first ‘key to happiness’ was giving. I feel I already give a lot constantly, always and sometimes by the end of the day, I feel my tank is empty and I’m running on the dregs. I’m good at looking after the needs of others but not my own. If I’m not careful, I can easily fall into the pattern of resentful martyr.
“For women, it can be a common problem,” says Vanessa King from Action for Happiness and my ‘happy coach for the year’ “My key question is - what's behind it? We all have chosen roles where a lot is demanded of us - as mums, as partners, as workers and of course juggling these aren't easy. But do we get in our own way? Is there an issue about how we are thinking of what is demanded of us or is it in our actual action?
Here's some questions to consider:
- What is making us think we have to do everything? Do we really? We can choose to do the things that really matter and/or take the least effort. What about asking those we are doing things for what is most important for them and, if you were to stop doing something, what would they suggest that to be? Behavioural economist Paul Dolan suggests we should look at our day-to-day experiences/what we do and ask - are they fun or purposeful for us and/or the other person, and if the answer is no all round then stop doing them.
- Can anyone else help? Research is showing that helping others is good for wellbeing - of both the helpee and the helper. Of course we can overdo help (the issue here). We can also be reluctant to ask for it. So why not step back and say who could help and ask them. It's an opportunity to boost their own wellbeing (and your own) and if you ask in the right way and show appreciation when help is received, it can build the relationship. It shows the other person that you value what they can do. When asking be sure to share why it's important for you - turn it into a positive experience rather than a moan or a nag.
- On the subject of appreciation, do we go into martyrdom because we actually want a bit of attention and appreciation ourselves? If so can we talk to our loved ones about this, How you feel, why it's important for you and what you ask of them. Again the way you do this is critical - make it appreciative not a nag. Perhaps remind them a time of when they did something that made you feel appreciated in the past (however small) and the impact that had for you.
- Letting go a bit - is part of the issue about control? As humans for wellbeing a sense of control in our lives is important. Is feeling that we have to do everything really about us being control? I often hear women in particular saying: " well if I don't do it no one else will" or perhaps worse: " I asked them before and they didn't do it right". So if we want things done exactly our way - the best way of doing that is to do it ourselves. So maybe we need to challenge ourselves to ask what is critical that is done a certain way and what isn't. Where it really is critical gently explaining why it is actually important something is done a certain way. I know that explaining takes time and that's scarce, but can we see it as an investment for making things better in the future.
This month’s key to happiness: GIVING: Here's are the tips from Action for Happiness.
Do things for others. Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them, it’s good for us too. It makes us happier and can help to improve our health. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone. And it's not all about money - we can also give our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good!
Do one act of kindness for someone daily for the next month.
Offer to help, give away your change, pay a compliment, or make someone smie. Reach out to help someone who's struggling, Give them a call or offer your support. Let them know you care.
Inspiration: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted ~ Aesop
QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS AT YOUR HAPPINESS CLUB
1.What have you done recently to help others? How did it make you feel?
2.When have you felt resentful when you’ve been giving? Why was that?
3.Can you remember the last time that someone gave to you unconditionally – and how did that make you feel?
4.How easy or difficult do you find it to to ask for or receive help?
5.Work together to come up with five different ways you could give easily to other people this month
(For more inspiration. See