G.R.E.A.T D.R.E.A.M. GIVING
Following on from my last post about the UN Action for Happiness initiative, the acronym GREAT DREAM encapsulates the ten keys for finding happiness in one’s life. Achieving happiness might seem to be a simple act of finding what you like and pursuing it, right? Well, yes but only to a point.
The pursuit of pleasure is the ‘hedonistic’ definition of happiness which is essentially all about maximising pleasure and avoiding pain. Whilst this might sound good, maximising pleasure is momentary and short-lived and, as we all know, total avoidance of pain is impossible. It’s not to say the pursuit of pleasure cannot bring happiness; however, the feelings of happiness obtained are short lived, for the most part. For example, a wedding is a day full of happiness and joy, the culmination of months of planning and waiting and it’s all over in one short day. Whilst the day can continue to evoke positive memories for years to come, the happiness felt in those moments on that day will never be recreated. Short-term pursuits are the same.
Consider a girl who loathes her job. Every day of the week passes torturously as she yearns for Friday afternoon so she can let loose with her friends over the weekend. The weekend passes like a blur and all too soon it’s Sunday night and she’s got to return to another week of her dreaded job. Thus the pursuit of pleasure each weekend is short-lived and does not carry her through the week.
The key to finding happiness is to find it in your life every day and to find it in such a way that it promotes and increases positive emotions and a heightened sense of wellbeing.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle determined that happiness is a state of deep contentedness with oneself and one’s life, a sense of wellbeing which flows through mind, body and soul. The Action for Happiness ten keys for finding happiness are founded in this very concept and are designed to teach us how to find that sense of contentedness in life and experience happiness daily, rather than occasionally, and the ways to do it are surprisingly easy.
The first of the ten keys is GIVING.
There is a growing body of evidence to support the power of altruism as a tool for increasing feelings of wellbeing. Whether it be making monetary donations, giving your time to help a friend, or lending your skills or expertise to help someone in need, giving to others makes us happier. In addition to strengthening social relationships and creating wider social networks, giving to others humbles us and reminds us of how fortunate we are that we are in a position to give. Volunteering your time or skills contributes to community which in turn promotes our sense of belonging and self-worth: our contribution has made a difference in some way and is valued.
Aside from food and shelter, one of the most basic of human needs is intimacy and a sense of belonging. The act of giving forms an instant connection to something or someone. Never underestimate the power of giving, you never know the extent of need of the person receiving it. If that isn’t incentive enough, the long-term effects of giving are considerable. It’s been linked to reductions in depressive symptoms and increased life-expectancy, as well as giving a big boost to that sense of contentedness and profound happiness we all strive for.
Start small. The next time you pop into your local Nutrition Station café, you could pay for the next person’s coffee or leaving an anonymous $10 towards the next order. Not only will you instantly brighten someone else’s day, but you’ll be surprised at how much you brighten your own.
Until next time, always remember, true wealth is your own health.