The fourth happiness boosting activity from “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky is:
Practicing Acts of Kindness
I think for most people this is pretty straight forward, but to spell it out: kindness is doing things for others and expecting nothing in return.
This is one of the activities in which there are any number of ways to do it, limited only by your imagination.
As Sonja writes:
Examples of the types of kind acts that [people] performed ranged widely, from very small, simple helpful behaviors to fairly big ones – “bought a friend a sundae”, “washed someone else’s dishes”, “donated blood”, stayed with a friend on her first night at a new place”, “visited a nursing home”, “helped a stranger with a computer problem”, “let my sister borrow my car for the weekend”, “gave a homeless man $20”, and (my personal favorite) “told a professor thank you for his hard work”
She also mentions that the HOW of timing plays an important role with this activity particularly, as those who did five acts in one day showed an improvement in happiness, whereas those who did five over a week did not (they felt more helpful, but not necessarily happy). This is most likely because they were doing small acts and spreading them out like that diminished their conspicuousness, making them less distinguishable from people’s regular behavior.
In fact this chapter in the book does not detail what to do as examples (as I stated earlier, there are always people who need help around us and our ability to do kindness is limited only by our imagination), but more on the HOW of doing acts of kindness.
Important factors are:
- Timing – committing too little time may not have an effect, but too much time and energy may overburden you. What was found to work best is to pick one day per week and on that day (and no other) commit one NEW and special (something you don’t usually do) LARGE act of kindness OR three to five little ones.
- Variety – mix up what you do regularly, although, major commitments that involve regular contact with other people (tutoring students, fund-raising for a cause you believe in), are less likely to be something you adapt to and will probably lead to greater happiness.
- Money or Time & Energy – You need not give both. If you are short on money, give time, if short on time, give money.
- Chain Kindness – If someone does something nice for you, pass it on, not necessarily to the one who helped you, but to another who needs it. Pay it forward.
If you are imaginative you can come up with lots of ways to help people and as long as you keep this activity fresh and do it with the right timing, it should pay in big rewards of joy.
Next time: nurturing relationships.
Until then keep laughing and … (I can help myself) … be excellent to each other.