Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the University of California, as well as a research psychologist. In her studies, she has discovered 12 things that happy people have in common.
I am happy. Even when I'm feeling crappy, I am a happy person. People are forever asking me how I reached this place. It wasn't because I prayed enough, or took a magic pill, or held my mouth just right while dancing on one foot, or was just born happy (um ... NO ... you can ask my mom about that first year). Yet, I have discovered that self disciplines, even the ones which result in fun, have radically changed my life. These are things I learned through my own therapy and medicinal treatment for depression and anxiety. If you realize the concepts in this series are simply not enough, seek help. Insist on it. Find your own personal level of healing, which is different for everyone. Sometimes I speak "happy" with an accent, because I still dance with depression and anxiety - and that is okay.
I thought I'd focus my Mondays on each of the 12 common factors. It makes sense, because Mondays can totally slurp on the happiness meter.
If you line up a bunch of generally happy people, most of them will regularly practice being kind to others. As I was thinking about this, I remembered the movie "Pay It Forward." Love me some Kevin Spacey. Not to mention, I spent many years watching "Mad About You" and desperately wanting my hair to look EXACTLY like Helen Hunt's. It never did. Funny ... it looked much more like Hunt's hair did in the movie! But I digress.
It's a good film about practicing random acts of kindness. This is a wonderful concept. I certainly don't want to diss on it. Yet, if I were going to capture just how kindness brings me happiness, it would not be in the times I have paid for the people behind me in the drive through or given away a possession. My greatest amount of happiness-via-kindness has grown from the tiny moments when I give myself away. My time. My ear. My smile.
Connecting personally with people, has a profound effect on my mood and how I grow as a person. "The Power of Intention" by Dr. Wayne Dyer quotes many studies which show the rise in serotonin levels when we are kind to others. Also, when you witness an act of kindness you also receive an increase in their happy juice ... serotonin ... whatevs. Now imagine how massive the mood boost is for the person on the receiving end. Being kind turns you into a serotonin machine!
Sometimes I think we jack up the actual definition and limit ourselves. Kindness is listening without fixing. Kindness is saying, "Man, that sucks. I love you," and then shutting your yapper. These are the moments where my life changes. This is where I find happiness. Just being with someone. Staying present. Loving them right where they are. Not feeling like I have to DO anything, because really ... they just want me. Just there.