Published April 5, 2009 at MaketheDaysCount.com.
Corita Kent said, “Life is a succession of moments – to live each one is to succeed.” Happy, sad, angry moments … each seem to fill the day as we meet with good news, bad news, and simple frustrations.
There’s an old piece of advice that says you should smile when you’re sad, and the simple act of smiling will automatically turn your day around. Another philosophy known in many circles of society is that you can make yourself happy by making others happy.
Here are some simple and effective ideas for maintaining happiness in your life by giving happiness to others:
1. Smile! Whether you are in a store, walking down the street, at a meeting, or at home with your family, make sure you smile as much as you can. You’ll display confidence, love, and will be able to appreciate each moment that goes on around you – and finding the other kind-hearted people in the world will be so much easier. Smile at strangers and smile at those you’re closest to. They’ll smile back!
2. Mind your manners. Saying “please” and “thank you” can go a long way toward brightening someone’s spirits; and they may just give you a little bit more attention and be a bit more polite in return. This is extremely important with the ones we love, as we too often take for granted that they’ll continue to love us despite our disposition. However, try saying “please” and “thank you” to the people you meet in public and you might be surprised how much nicer the world becomes. Try it in a restaurant, at the drive-up window, at the checkout counter, and all the other places where we tend to expect good service.
3. Do your share. We all know that one of the most annoying things in the world, which leads to so many unnecessary disagreements, is the situation in which one person feels like they’re pulling their load while someone else isn’t. It might be a child who refuses to clean their room or help fold laundry, a roommate who skipped their turn to do the dishes, or a co-worker who chatters on the phone while another tends to a client. Think about the things you do which might cause others to feel this way about you. A little extra effort to prevent unpleasantness is always worth it!
4. Look up. Don’t look at the ground when you walk or at the plate in front of you when you’re eating. Stay alert to the world around you and look around at other people. (Don’t stare or look at people to the point of being creepy, of course!) An amused glance between strangers as they wait in line, a nod of acknowledgement to an elderly couple or someone in uniform, or eye contact with anyone who is speaking can affirm to them that you realize they are there – not just another impersonal body floating around in life.
5. Wave or say, “Hi!” Growing up in a small town, it was always fun to meet people you recognized and greet them. Even if it was just that person in that red car that you always met at the same time on the same road every day, a shared wave was always a spirit-lifter. Avoiding a simple “hello” can lead to awkwardness or downright tension between people that could normally be very friendly. Wave at your neighbor, say “hi” to people you recognize when you bump into them in new places, and most definitely acknowledge your family or roommates when they walk in the door.
6. Human contact. Some people might be surprised to learn that hugging makes some very loving people extremely uncomfortable. Some people are just brought up in homes without a lot of physical affection, while others are filled with hugs and kisses all the time. Also, there are situations where hugs are not appropriate. However, a hug, a pat on the back, or a simple handshake is a moment where you can let someone know you care, or that you appreciate him or her, and feel good in return. Think before you do, but in many situations, like with your family or in church, hugging – and especially hand shaking – is a great way to share encouragement.
7. Think about others. What do those you spend most of your time with like, or dislike? Does your boss like it when he doesn’t have to ask someone to re-stock the post-it notes? Does your spouse hate it when you leave the lights on while no one is in the room? Take things like that into consideration, and make a point to keep other people happy with those very simple acts. As with doing your share, a little extra effort can go a long way to prevent unpleasantness and you’ll quickly see how keeping someone else happy improves your own mood as well.
8. Share. Oh, how hard it is! In other parts of the world, sharing is part of survival, and expected, but that’s hard to remember when there’s only one cookie left on the plate or traffic is backed up for miles. Just remind yourself that other people out there feel the same way you do. Leave some change, break your candy bar in half, tithe, or hit the breaks a bit to let a car or two from the on-ramp pull into the lane. You might not see the results of your actions immediately, but know that you’re making someone else’s day a bit brighter.
9. Admit your mistakes. This is another difficult idea; especially for people who don’t readily admit when they’re wrong about something. But bear in mind that telling someone that you were mistaken means that you are strong enough and confident enough to admit and accept it. Not only that, but it begins the healing process and often leads to an apology in return. Sometimes others will also admit their own mistakes, sometimes not. However saying “I’m sorry” will certainly be a big step in improving relations and sharing happiness with someone.
10. “I love you.” There are so many ways to let a person know how much you care about them. The ideas listed above can say it, remembering a birthday or sending a “Thinking of You” card, leaving a note someplace where your spouse will find it, making sure you’re there for your kids when they really want you to be – the possible ways to let someone know you love them are endless.
Just remember to pay attention to the ways in which other people tell you, “I love you.” You might be surprised how often you see it.
Corita Kent was an educator and artist. One of her rules was, “Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.”