There are lots of definitions of happiness. Many of them are based on the idea that I need to do something for me in order to be happy, whether that be through self-improvement, financial security, planning the perfect day, or finding the perfect job. While there are certainly things we can do to improve our own happiness, we must not forget the other crucial ingredient.
Perhaps the most important path to true happiness is serving others. To be truly happy we must put others before ourselves. We must find a cause larger than ourselves. We must have a purpose that is not just about us. I can only be so happy serving myself. If I want to be truly happy, I must find a way to serve others. I’m not sure what your path in life should look like, but it rhymes with service to others if you are to be truly happy.
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
Don’t believe me? Look around the world! Those who are miserable are only thinking of their own self-interests, and those who are the happiest have chosen to serve others and a force bigger than themselves.
Don’t just take my word for it.
There is scientific evidence using MRI technology showing that giving stimulates the same part of the brain as food and sex. It truly makes us happy.
In addition, a study done in 2008 by Professor Elizabeth Dunn found people were happier buying things for others than for themselves.
Most of the great teachers and philosophers have taught us the same thing:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”Winston Churchill
“For it is in giving that we receive.”Saint Francis of Assisi
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”Leo Tolstoy
“Making money is a happiness. Making other people happy is a super-happiness”Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Muhammad Yunus
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”Matthew 25:40, King James Bible
It doesn’t necessarily matter what cause you give to. Whether it be helping your neighbor build a porch or donating money to a good charity, giving is the key. In fact, there is probably a reason to do both.
When we give of our money and blessings, we create a feeling of abundance. We realize that the world is not about scarcity but about abundance. The more we give, the more the universe gives back, and we enjoy the fruits of those labors.
When we give our time and of ourselves, it brings a special joy that cannot be gained by giving money alone. We get to be part of something that does not benefit us but benefits someone else, and that brings a special kind of happiness to us and the one being served.
Don’t worry about the arguments about whether it is ok to get joy from serving others and that if you enjoy it, you’re not really serving. Those are arguments are made in ivory towers by people who don’t spend time serving. Enjoy serving. Get joy from it. Help as many as you can.
Life is short, spend it serving others
Living Every Minute,
Tim Reynolds MD