Last month, the world watched a freezing homeless man help stranded strangers in Colorado Springs, CO1. After a severe snowstorm hit, the altruistic man spent three hours pushing car after car up over a hill to ensure drivers arrived home safely, yet he himself has no home.
Dale Carnegie said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” Although he never studied medicine, Dale Carnegie understood that one charitable act changes the body’s internal chemistry—long before scientists began studying the effects of being outward-focused and generous. Therefore, one of his world renowned Human Relations principles is, ‘Create happiness for others.’
Here is an easy way to remember how to be happy:
Helping hands– In an experiment, volunteers were given cash and the option to keep it or give it away. Those who gave it away felt less shame and more positive thoughts than those who spent the money on themselves. The experiment also showed that a charitable act can significantly lower levels of potentially harmful stress hormones. Step outside of your comfort zone to help a stranger. Go beyond common courtesy, e.g. instead of simply opening a door at a grocery store, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen. Americans were more likely to help strangers than any other nationality according to the World Giving Index2. Offer your helping hands, and you will definitely feel happy.
Appreciation– In this technologically over-charged society focused solely on immediate gratification, we rarely communicate our appreciation to others. Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principle #2 is ‘Give honest, sincere appreciation.’ Make a commitment to send a professional or personal note of thanks on a weekly basis to someone who went out of their way to help you. You’ll feel happy for sending it, and the recipient will feel even better.
Pursuit of positive– Depression affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population each year3. You can avoid depression by focusing on the positive and opting to do as much as good as possible, as often as possible. In his epic poem, Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote, “Good, the more communicated, more abundant grows.” To be happy, surround yourself with positive people and seek positive experiences.
Perspective– The ability to experience happiness depends on your ability to put things into perspective. If you are frustrated that you have to clean your house, consider the homeless man who helped the stranded people in Colorado. Passed up for a promotion? Ponder how you can positively shape your future by, for example, learning new skills. There will always be ‘bad’ things. Your happiness is predicated on your ability to see the ‘good’ in them.
You are the only person in the world who can make you happy. People think that their happiness will arrive when they get that job, or finally have that new house, but they are mistaken. The ability to consistently be happy regardless of one’s circumstances—even while unemployed or homeless, is true happiness.
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