Do you ever get that special feeling inside you when you do something nice for others? It’s like your day is a little brighter, your shoulders are a tad lighter, and you seem to not mind that you’ve exerted time, effort, and even money just to make someone else happy.
It’s because bringing happiness to others can have positive effects on the giver. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that we feel much better when we give happiness than when we simply take it for ourselves! But how do we do it the right way?
In this article, I’ll tell you how to bring happiness to the ones you care about in such a way that you will feel good about it, too. Ready to spread the good vibes with me? Let’s go!
- The “Happiness Virus”?
- Bringing happiness makes us happier
- Glowing from giving
- 3 Tips to bring happiness to others
- Wrapping Up
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
The “Happiness Virus”?
Imagine this: you’re lost in thought, worried about something, but then, your favorite person in the world pops right in front of you and bursts your bubble with a huge smile on their face. Immediately, you snap back to present, and, without noticing it, you smile back as if the worries you had seconds ago were completely washed away.
It’s because happiness is like a virus – it’s contagious. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, scientists have found that happiness can effectively spread through your social ties such as your friends, family, and neighbors.
A group of over 5,000 individuals in Framingham, Massachusetts were studied along with their social networks. And it was discovered that an individual’s happiness is associated with:
- The happiness of other people in their network:
They are 15.3% more likely to be happy if a person in their social network is happy.
- Where they are in their social networks:
Those located at the center tend to be the happiest.
- How close they are to happy people:
The effect is strongest when they’re directly connected to a happy person, but is also significant up to three degrees of separation.
While there are many factors that contribute to our happiness, it is proven that we can certainly derive it from other people around us.
Bringing happiness makes us happier
Now that we’ve established that we can achieve happiness socially, let’s take a closer look at how bringing happiness to those around us can make us feel better about ourselves.
Study on the effects of giving happiness
In this study, researchers sought to prove how “prosocial” behavior (meaning, the kind deeds that we do for others) can make toddlers happy. The children who participated in this study were introduced to a puppet monkey who likes treats. The next steps of the experiment are as follows:
- The child was given their own bowl of treats
- The experimenter “found” a treat and gave it to the puppet
- The experimenter “found” another treat and asked the child to give it to the puppet
- The child was asked to give the puppet a treat from their own bowl
The children’s happiness levels were tested in each phase, and it was found that giving to the puppet makes them happier than when they received treats for themselves. Furthermore, they were happier when they gave their own treats as compared to when they gave a treat “found” by the experimenter.
This proves that giving, sharing, and bringing happiness to others is rewarding and can totally add to our own happiness!
Glowing from giving
One of the authors of the latter study, Elizabeth Dunn, talks about a “warm glow” that follows when you bring happiness to others. It encourages us to engage in more activities that benefit other people or make them happy.
Example of giving happiness to someone else
I particularly feel this warm glow when I’m able to give a heartfelt compliment to someone I love. I feel fuzzy inside when I tell them something that they probably don’t often hear but deserve to hear. It’s even more rewarding when I see the change in their facial expression or when they sincerely thank me for it.
Two weeks ago, I played a game of questions with my boyfriend and one of the questions that I picked was, “What do you like most about your partner?” And, as I went on to tell him things that I don’t say on the daily, I had this inexplicable feeling when I was able to make him smile and actually tear up just by sharing a few nice words to him.
Of course, this effect is not the same when I’m simply giving a short compliment with a happy emoji to a co-worker who posted their latest selfie online.
So, how do we feel much better about the nice things that we do for others? In a TEDx talk, Dunn says that being the cause of other people’s happiness can also make us happy.
But what are the signs that our prosocial behavior is making a difference in us? She says that when we help, give, or bring happiness in the right way, we are able to:
- Appreciate our “shared humanity”
- See the impact of our deeds
- Connect with the receiver
- Stop thinking of giving as a moral obligation
- Start thinking of it as a source of pleasure
“We need to create opportunities to give that enable us to appreciate our shared humanity.”Elizabeth Dunn
If you can experience these things, then you’re on the right track to spreading real happiness around you that also leaves a mark within you!
3 Tips to bring happiness to others
Now that we’ve realized how bringing happiness to others can also improve our own happiness, why not seek opportunities to hit these two birds with one stone?
Here are some steps that you can take:
1. Find out what makes others happy
To effectively make people happy, one tip is to know what actually triggers their happiness. This is much more doable when the person is close to you.
For example, your artsy, dog-loving best friend is celebrating her birthday amidst a home renovation. To show your appreciation for her, you blend all the things that she loves by giving her a painting of her dog that she can hang up on her bedroom wall. This will surely bring joy on her special day because you’ve thought of every single detail of your present.
Another example is when you simply want to lighten up your partner’s mood after a long week. You know that their love language is physical touch, so you arrange an at-home pamper sesh and give them the massage that they never knew they needed. Surely, you’ll hit their happiness spot!
The secret to making others happy is showing them how deeply you know them no matter how simple your ways are. As they say, it’s the thought that counts!
2. Make it meaningful to you, too
Giving happiness has the most impact when you have the heart for it. You have to find your own meaning as to why you’re doing a nice thing for someone.
If you watch Dunn’s TEDx talk, she recalls how giving money to charity didn’t really hit the spot for her. It’s like something that she’s obligated to do, rather than something that she actually likes to do.
So, Dunn found a different cause to support which allowed her to gather 25 people with the goal of bringing a Syrian family to Canada and making sure that a comfortable life awaits them in their new home. She found purpose in this kind of charity work especially when she and her friends built the house together during their free time.
Finding something meaningful to share with others is what makes us even more eager to bring happiness to the world. You have to love giving in order to make the most out of this experience. Or else, what’s the point?
3. Appreciate the impact of your deed
Bringing happiness to others won’t be complete without seeing the results. It makes the effort even more rewarding when you know that you brightened up someone else’s day, or you made a positive difference in how they were living their lives.
In Dunn’s case, she was able to maximize her experience when they finally welcomed the Syrian family to Canada and witnessed how they enjoyed their new life together and felt safe in it.
Appreciating the impact of our good deeds is important because it further fuels us to continue sharing, helping, and giving. It makes us want to do more for others and make our corner of the world a better place even in our own little ways.
Happiness can come from different sources around us. But the most fulfilling way to experience happiness is through human connection. There’s nothing quite like bringing happiness to others and finding joy in it. For me, this is the real meaning of happiness.
So, what’s one nice thing that you can do for others today? If there is any particular experience that you’d like to share in the comments, I would love to hear!
Writer and counseling pyschology student. Firm believer of validating one’s feelings, prioritizing the inner self, and finding happiness in a plate of chicken curry.