I asked members of the Happy People Community to give me some questions about happiness and I would answer them in a live video. Here is the live video and (if you would rather read about it) the script I wrote to make it.
The Story of the Retiring Carpenter
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house-building business to live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoy his extended family. He would miss the paycheck each week, but he wanted to retire.
They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go & asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but over time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came to inspect the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house… my gift to you.”
The carpenter was shocked!
What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with a shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.
But, you cannot go back. You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the “house” you will live in tomorrow. Therefore, Build wisely!
Take personal responsibility for what you are doing. If you are looking to have more happiness in your life or to create joy for others, it is up to you to make it happen.
In the Happy People Community, Mateo asked, “How do you make the people in your life happier? How do they know that you’re happy?”
This is a two-part question, I am going to start with the first part.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.” Why?-Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the best ways to create a happier life for yourself is to make other people happier.
- You see it. You’ll feel happier as someone’s face lights up with joy.
- You did a good thing. You’ll feel happier because you feel you have done a good thing. And so your self-esteem shoots up too.
- You get what you give. In the long run, you tend to be treated by others as you treat them. Plus, the way you treat and think about others also tends to be the way you treat and think about yourself.
So how can you make someone happier?
Here are 24 quite quick things you can start doing today. Pick one and see how it can affect someone in your life.
- Give a sincere compliment. Many positive things tend to go unsaid. So give someone a sincere compliment today. It can mean especially much if it’s for something that is close to the other person’s heart. Or something he or she has been putting in a good effort with like getting into better shape for the last few months.
- Give a stranger a compliment. Few things can brighten a day like getting a kind and unexpected compliment from someone you pass by or you have just met. So take a few seconds and give that to someone you encounter today and tell her how nice her shoes, hat or hairstyle looks. Or ask him where he got that cool t-shirt or umbrella.
- Let someone into your lane while you’re driving. It can unstress his or her day quite a bit.
- Hold the door open for a few extra seconds. It doesn’t take much of an effort but it can put a smile on someone’s face.
- Express your gratitude for what is too often taken for granted. We may sometimes take what others do a bit too much for granted. Like the food they cook, how they keep doing their job consistently each and every day or how to they are there to listen when we need it.
- Share some of your tasty homemade cookies. Or bread, ice cream or jerky.
- Give away a piece of your hobby. Like a bracelet or a drawing, you have made for instance.
- Share something from your garden. For example some jam, canned vegetables or dried delicious mushrooms or fruit.
- Encourage. The world can be a tough and discouraging place at times. To encourage someone who is in a negative situation at the moment. Add your own perhaps more grounded and optimistic perspective on the situation to lessen his or her worries and perhaps exaggerated fears.
- Tell a good – or terrible – joke. Or a funny story about something that happened to you last week.
- Share something funny you found online. Play one of your favorite clips from a stand-up show you love if you are out of jokes and good stories at the moment.
- Share a Spotify-playlist with the most inspiring and uplifting songs you know. Send it to a friend that needs it right now. Or share it with family, friends or co-workers on social media.
- Help out practically with advice. If a friend needs some help then ask someone you know who has been in that situation for advice. Or do a bit of online research to find what they might be looking for. Keep in mind that you want to be sure that they want advice before you give it.
- Pick some flowers. It only takes a few minutes but the joy lasts for days.
- Give a hug. It unstresses and it can disrupt negative thoughts and change someone’s mood surprisingly quickly. Use when appropriate though.
- Cook their favorite food if they have had a bad day. I know from my own life that it can really cheer me up on such days.
- Get their favorite takeout food. If you want a quicker option than cooking a meal when they are having a crummy day. A variation on this idea is to get just a small piece of their favorite chocolate or another treat.
- Bring something nice for the coffee break at work. Maybe some sweet fruit, like clementines. Or some fancy and really tasty tea. Or maybe something from the local bakery. This can be a big cheer up especially during this often dark and cold time of the year.
- Smile. Even if you’re only spending 30 seconds on talking to the cashier in the supermarket checkout line.
- Run an errand or do one chore for that person. It can be a big stress reducer if he or she is having a hectic day.
- Just listen. It’s sometimes all that’s needed to help someone out of a negative headspace.
- Bring a cup of tea or coffee the way that person likes it. It only takes a minute while you are already up and getting a hot beverage for yourself.
- Hide a secret note for him or her to find. A note of thankfulness. Or a note with a compliment. Or simply a note of love. Hide it in their tea container, lunch box or hat for example.
- Bring positivity. If you bring positivity and an open, happy and good energy into a conversation for example then that tends to spread and the two of you or more will have a happier lunch break, evening down at the pub or coffee date in the crisp autumn sunshine.
Now as for the second part of Mateo’s question about happiness
“How do other people know that you are happy?”
Happiness is personal. It doesn’t matter if others know that you are happy, what is important is that you are taking steps to be personally responsible for your own happiness and allowing your happiness to come from within.
Let’s explore why you are struggling with being happy…
- Ask yourself if you’re truly happy. Some would argue that this question is impossible to answer because happiness is such a subjective term. But most psychologists believe that individuals can accurately self-report their emotional states; if someone feels happy, then they probably are.
- However, it is possible that one could pretend to be happy to please others or get through a tough situation in life.
- Ask yourself if you’re truly happy, or if you’re just feigning happiness for one reason or another.
- If you find that you’re not as happy as you would like to be, then this may be the reason you’re struggling to communicate happiness to others.
- Figure out what’s getting in the way of your expression. Each individual has his or her own unique reasons for struggling with the expression of happiness. There isn’t one be-all, end-all solution to getting through an emotional roadblock. But don’t let this discourage you! We can often answer these questions for ourselves by taking the time to think about our relationship to happiness and how this can affect our behaviors.
- Think about situations in your life where you succeeded in expressing happiness. Do any moments come to mind? What did you do in that situation that was notable? What parts of that moment could you reenact?
- Think about instances where you weren’t able to express yourself. What did you do that you would change? What thoughts were you having at the time that made it difficult for you to share your feelings?
- Are there any instances in your past where your happiness was stifled? Do you recall any moments where you were expected to express happiness when you weren’t happy at all?
You can express your happiness in many ways and a lot of it overlaps with what I talked about before because by making others happy as I discussed will, in turn, show your own personal happiness.
- Being kind to others. Like I just talked about, being kind to others not only increases your own happiness, but it also has the effect of showing others that you are happy. When we are unhappy or depressed, we tend to withdraw into ourselves. We barely have the energy to do things for ourselves that it is unthinkable in many occasions to go out of your way to do something for someone else. So doing kind things for others is a great way to show that you are happy.
- Create art. Studies have shown that the creation of art can actually enhance happiness and prolong feelings of pleasure. During art therapy, people say that art-making is a source of joy, even when they’re creating art that may communicate a painful thought or memory. If you’re already happy, expressing that happiness through art may even enhance your already positive feelings.
- Paint, draw, sculpt or create something with your hands. People in art therapy often report that creating something physical is a joyful experience because they find pleasure in exploration and innovation. Some people thrive on having a tangible product in front of them.
- Create a gratitude journal. If you’re not much for visual art, writing your feelings can be a great way to focus on happy thoughts. You could also write a fictional story or poem and express those feelings in an abstract way, rather than just making a list of what you’re grateful for.
- Make music. Imaging studies of the brain show that joyful music activates reward centers in our brains and releases dopamine; this gives us a hit of happiness. Playing a musical instrument and creating a positive song can amp up your happiness while you’re expressing it through music.
- Treat yourself well. Happy people tend to have balanced lives — which means that they know when to work and when to play. Simply taking the time to take care of yourself in whatever way you need is a great way to express your happiness and love for your mind and body. I talk about affirmations a lot, in fact I have a newsletter that goes out each week called the Daily Dose of Happy that gives you a week’s worth of inspirations to treat yourself well. Doing nice things for yourself is the actionable equivalent of telling yourself positive affirmations in your head.
- If you’ve been longing for a bubble bath, but you’ve been putting it off because you’ve been so busy — schedule it for later in the day so you can get much-needed relaxation.
- If you’re the type of person who will skip lunch while at work to finish up a spreadsheet, change it up and take an hour off to take a walk and get a sandwich.
- Directly express happiness through language. Telling someone you’re in a good mood is an easy way to communicate positive feelings. Try not to brag about being happy, though — as that can come off as over-confident or even annoying.
- Also, try to avoid saying “You make me feel happy” instead of “I feel happy.” Even though it’s possible that the people you’re speaking to would be glad that they bring you joy, it’s also possible that they may feel pressured to respond, or they could feel responsible for continuing your happiness.
- Encourage others to be the best that they can be. This may seem like it’s not a direct expression of your happiness because you’re not telling the person why you’re in a good mood. But this is a common misconception. Expressions of happiness can be abstract. Technically, you express happiness whenever your behavior is influenced by that emotion. So simply by being a positive force in someone else’s life, your happiness is shining through. Examples of encouragement include:
- Tell your friend how proud you are of their recent accomplishments.
- Give your significant other extra compliments on their singing voice when they wail to their favorite metal songs in the car.
- Urge your younger sibling to go for that scholarship, even when they’re discouraged.
- Rise above negative situations and act as a positive force in someone else’s life. When someone you know is in a bad mood, it can be easy to get swept up in their negativity. If you’re in a good mood, you’re in a place of power to transfer that positive energy to the other person and change the situation.
- Avoid gossip. If someone you know is saying mean things about another person, try to steer the conversation away from hurtful topics and talk about someone you love or appreciate.
- Leave negative environments. If you’re with someone who is cranky because they’re too hot, tired or uncomfortable, suggest that you both move to a different location to help change their mood.
- Be there for someone in need. If a friend is going through a rough time, do your best to listen to their thoughts and feelings and don’t be judgmental. Don’t try to force them to be in a good mood with you, but use your happiness to try to channel it into being a sympathetic ear. Giving your time to those in need is an abstract way of expressing your happiness and lending positive energy to those around you.
- Figure out what methods of expression feel right for you. Expressions of happiness don’t always look the same for everyone. Just because your favorite TV character expresses happiness by smiling a lot and buying his friend’s lunch, that doesn’t mean you have to. Every human is unique and so are their methods of expression.
- Test out some methods of expression to see how they feel. Buy someone flowers, treat yourself to an expensive dinner, or simply smile at a passerby.
- If certain expressions of happiness feel more natural than others, then go with what feels right. Do what you’re comfortable with, and then in the future, you might be able to push the boundaries and try methods of expression that you normally wouldn’t. Don’t be ashamed to take baby steps.
If you have any questions, other ways that you show happiness or share your happiness with others, I want to hear about those too!
And finally, if you are doing anything that I talked about here, put them in the comments too! I want to hear about your success.