Intent.com's topic for the week is "How to Be Happier". They are asking the question, "what can we all do as individuals or communities to make ourselves happier?" What an excellent question!
What can a single individual do to create more happiness for themselves and their communities?
- Fight the Status Quo
If you are an American, fight to overcome the cultural norm which says, "He who dies with the most toys wins." Stop chasing the dollar. Stop believing that having more "things" will make you happier. Don't buy a new PS3 or Wii. Save your money to pay off old bills that are stressing you. Work fewer hours and spend more time with your family. Take your kids to the park instead of the mall. Invite your neighbors. Do you even know their names?
Research has shown that volunteering not only lifts your mood but lifts the mood of the community as well. It takes our minds off our own problems and puts us in a position of helping someone else. This is empowering instead of defeating and uplifting instead of depressing. Besides that, it feels good to be needed and great to be wanted. It also boosts the mood of those on the receiving end of your volunteering efforts and makes your community more valuable when citizens are active participants in organizations they care about. Instead of spending another evening in front of the television, get out and help someone else.
- Get Outside
Research shows that sunshine elevates your mood. Get off your couch and go for a walk!
My mother always says, "a garden is an investment in the future". When you garden, you plant in the fall for the spring. You fertilize in the spring for the summer. You are constantly working for a reward to be experienced in the future, and this is always good for your mood. Start a community vegetable garden. This will expose you to sunshine, get your hands dirty, introduce you to your neighbors and help you eat healthier.
If you are retired, and you are good with kids, babysit for a single mother (or father). If you are a single mother, organize a babysitting club which will allow mothers more time for themselves. We have forgotten that wise African saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". Get to know the kids in your neighborhood and invest some time in them. We would have a lot fewer children with ADHD and a lot less harried parents.
- Eat Dinner
We've stopped eating together as families and friends. Dining used to be a social experience. Now we just rush through the drive thru. Take time to sit down with people you love and have a proper meal. Talk. Discuss. Debate. Share. Prepare it yourselves. If you have children, teach them what a healthy meal looks like. If you don't know, learn. There are plenty of recipes and nutritional information on the web. Eliminate the "fast" food and cook a meal together. Try to make real mole sauce or sushi. Something complicated you create together. Now that it's summer, it is a great time to cook out with friends and loved ones.
- Work at Something You Love
It's sooo much more painless to get up on Monday morning when you are going to a job you love. Doing what you love keeps you invested and - yes, happy. You spend the majority if most every day at work. If you are working at something you hate, how much of your life are you wasting that way?
- Stop and Smell the Roses
Contentment often comes from the little things in life; a hug from your child, sitting and listening to an amusing story, reading a good book, enjoying a nice meal. Slow down so you will be able to appreciate these small moments when they happen. Too often we are rushing through life and miss the little things. I know people are tired of me talking about the bus, but I really love it. It takes a bit longer to get to and from work, but it is so much more satisfying. I get to talk to other commuters, meet the Japanese basketball team, hear about events happening in my community, see some very interesting people and read really good books. Walking downtown to catch the bus, sitting and waiting for the bus, riding the bus, all of these steps force me to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around me. I'm more in touch with the weather and the seasons. I'm more aware of what's going on around me. And I have more time to attend to it. (And it's Green! The buses in my town run on natural gas which significantly reduces my carbon footprint.)
- Reach Out and Touch Someone
In our daily rush, we often forget how important human touch is. A hug, a backrub, brushing someone's hair, even a simple touch of the hand can be so healing. Be careful not to reach out and touch strangers. They might not appreciate it! And always ask permission before touching someone, especially if they have experienced childhood abuse. But those we love probably could use a bit more of our comforting touch. (You can read more about the importance of human touch in the classic by Ashley Montague, "Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin".
What else can an individual do to bring happiness to themselves and their community?