Can you remember the last time you were happy?
Was it hours ago?
What was happening in your life at the time? What made you happy?
Happiness is a goal for many people. But there are different ideas floating around about what exactly makes people happy.
Is money the key to happiness? It’s been studied and determined that, for people who are struggling to provide for their basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), more money can make them happier, but only up to a point.
When a person is able to provide for themselves and their families at a basic but comfortable level, more money doesn’t increase their happiness. So, if you earn $50,000 a year, earning $300,000 a year isn’t going to make you happier.
What about beauty, or dressing well, or having people look up to you? These qualities, like money, focus on external values, and can make some difference in the level of happiness a person experiences, but not much.
What many studies have shown is that happiness is increased by things that are more internal: having close friends and family, being loved, feeling needed, doing or witnessing acts of kindness. These things all increase a person’s feeling of happiness.
Recently, many articles and books have noted a connection between kindness and happiness.
A study in 2005 by Hebrew University in Israel noted that there is a link between kindness and a gene that releases dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that makes us feel happy. So, not only does kindness make the person on the receiving end feel good, it makes the person being kind feel good as well.
When my daisies were in full bloom, my daughter went and delivered bouquets to several neighbors. The look on her face (and theirs) was one of pure joy. If you’ve ever done an act of kindness, be it buying someone coffee, helping at a shelter, or shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, you understand the rush of good feelings that occur.
The connection between kindness and happiness is real.
This doesn’t mean paying someone’s library fine is immediately going to fix the world. It can, however, bring a little bit of light into a dark space. And that light may multiply and grow. Kindness has a way of reaching far beyond the original act of benevolence and morphing into something much bigger.
Years later, the acts of kindness people experience live on.
If you’re willing share, I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve been impacted by acts of kindness.
Photo from Shutterstock