So many of our New Year’s resolutions are centered around doing less or stopping an activity, such as
- Drink less
- Lose weight
- Cut down on extraneous spending
- Reduce screen time
Often we don’t think about what truly brings us joy. For a country that prides itself on freedom, independence, and the pursuit of happiness, a recent study confirms that the US has clearly has lost its way.
In the World Happiness Report, the top ten happiest countries are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia; the US ranks 18th and yet we are the 11th richest country in the world.
What is wrong with this picture? Why aren’t we happier?
Well-being and happiness often require factors such as family support and friendships, living with meaning and purpose in your life, a healthy lifestyle and a spirit of generosity.
Have we gotten too greedy, self-consumed, and me-oriented?
Research has already shown that after a certain threshold, more money and more toys don’t make us happier. While we may still be experiencing a holiday high, our back-to-reality everyday drudgery will hit home soon. True to our fallible nature, we think that more money will make us happier. While it is true that the wealthy are happier than the poor, once we have reached a certain threshold, around $80,000 a year depending on where you live, more money does not correlate to greater happiness.
When our income increases, our spending expands and we overestimate the joy that a new car or larger house will bring. Sure it may make us happier for the short-term, but in the long run, the initial emotional euphoria will dissipate.
If more money doesn’t make you happier, what will according to the research?
Generosity is one of the top key variables that contribute to happiness in the World Happiness Report. A recent white paper on generosity concludes that human beings are wired to help one another whether it’s through time, donations, volunteering or some other act of kindness and empathy.
Generosity can make a huge difference in your happiness and well-being. Click to retweet
Generosity expands your capacity to think beyond yourself and build empathy and compassion toward others, important emotions to increase your happiness. According to Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and the creator of PERMA principles, happiness can be cultivated with discipline and better habits.
The research on generosity is complex and nuanced. Several different studies note that there are social and geographic differences in giving to charitable organizations. People in the top income quintile in England and Wales were the most likely to give to charitable causes (86 percent), while those in the bottom quintile were least likely to give (65). This contrasted with studies from the US where the very poorest give the highest proportion of their income and then the line flattens with those from middle and higher income brackets.
Regardless of your income, geographic location, cultural or familial upbringing, the research clearly indicates that forming an ongoing habit of generosity not only helps others, but it is also good for you.
Make generosity your top habit to cultivate for 2019.
- Donate to your favorite cause every month. Remember that every little bit can help a small organization.
- Make it a practice to help someone at work or at home without being asked or without expecting anything in return.
- Volunteer your time with an organization or to make a difference in someone’s life.
- Be generous with your attention. Take your headphones off your head, pull out your earbuds, lift your head up and away from your phone or computer, really look people in the eyes and listen to what they have to say. In fact, say, “hello” when you pass someone.
- Be generous with your kind words. More compliments, more nice comments, and more positive reinforcement.
Here’s a challenge for the next 365 days. Practice one act of generosity a day. Be the change. Make a difference. And you will feel the change in your life.
There are affiliate links below for which I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy
The Paradox of Generosity by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson
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