“To be happy, make others happy”
— Dada J P Vaswani
You can spread happiness simply by being happy. Yes, just by feeling happy, you may be bringing happiness not only to your near and dear ones, but also to those you don’t even know.
A study published in the British Medical Journal used data from the Framingham Heart Study to recreate a network of 4,739 individuals. According to the study, happiness spreads through social networks of family members, friends and neighbours.
The study found that we are 15 per cent more likely to be happy if someone we directly know is happy, 10 per cent, if the friend of a friend is happy, and six per cent if a friend of a friend of a friend is happy. In other words, happiness is contagious. It’s like a chain reaction, which spreads quickly and is self-sustaining.
In another fascinating study of 2,000 people conducted in Australia, researchers found that volunteers are significantly happier with their work, work hours, community connectedness and spirituality than any other group of people. I am not surprised. I think we get happiness in the process of giving. And volunteering is one of the best ways to give. When we volunteer for a cause, we give our time and our attention to it—indeed, we give a part of ourselves to it. Perhaps, that’s why volunteering is much more fulfilling than, say, donating money.
Get happy, spread happines
Both the studies I refer to corroborate the idea that we get happiness by spreading happiness.
Think about it. When are you happiest? When you have made someone happy, isn’t it?
Now, imagine a world where every individual is busy making others happy. Not only are you getting happiness by making others happy, others are making you happy too.
Happiness is not the same as pleasure
In our modern, over-communicated, stress-ridden world, happiness has acquired a poor reputation. Somehow, we have come to believe that happiness is rare and difficult and that sadness, fear, anxiety and despair are the way of life. But nothing could be farther from the truth—happiness is easy and natural, provided you don’t equate it with pleasure.
Authentic happiness has a different quality than pleasure, which is hedonistic and based entirely on our five senses. Pleasure is a self-centred activity, whereas happiness is always concerned about others. Indeed, happiness is an expansive feeling of being in communion with the world, and with life itself.
I invite you to put to work this new understanding of happiness. Choose one person—ideally someone not too close—and do something that might make them happy. Offer a ride in your car to a stranger, or give up your seat in the train. Or get coffee for your colleague (especially if you don’t get along well with them). Do something kind and unexpected for someone and see how their faces light up. Notice also, how your own being expands and how light you feel in your heart. I urge you to do this today! And if you feel inspired, share your experiences with us.
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