At a recent Feng Shui Institute of the Midwest meeting, each attendee was asked to briefly respond to the question: “How do you make other people happy?”
My first thought was – “isn’t that a question to ask of my friends and family?” My second thought was whatever I might do to bring happiness would likely change, depending on who the person is. But as I continued to reflect on the question, I realized that the energy we carry with us – our core energy – has the potential to bring happiness to any and all with whom we might come into contact, anytime and anyplace. If we live in gratitude and are basically “the glass is half full” kind of person, then we exude an energy that lifts the energy of all around us. It seems to me we can only bring happiness to others to the extent we are happy with ourselves. But this is my version and is it correct? And what actually makes us happy?
It seems that researchers have concluded that each of us has a set point for happiness—a level of contentment that stays constant through changing circumstances, such as the loss of loved ones or winning big bucks.
Other drivers of happiness that matter less than you think include money, beauty, youth, intelligence and education. Those that matter more include self-esteem, social skills, free time, volunteering and humor.
Back to the responses the night of our meeting. They were quite varied, as you might imagine, and, perhaps, instructive, as well. One woman owns a cleaning business said how happy her clients are to walk into a clean home. Another was an interior designer who makes her clients happy with color and design in their environments. Still another visits the elderly to bring some special happiness to their day. And I wasn’t the only person that evening who stood up to say, “I try to bring happiness by smiling at others everywhere I go.“
“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am amazed at the glum facial expressions I observe when I’m out and about! Have you noticed? So many people nowadays appear to be burdened with life. It is true that the world, especially now it seems, can often feel mostly negative. These times are challenging with all the conflicting information we hear about threats to our safety and challenges to our health and well-being, to name a few. I like to believe we are experiencing growing pains. Our world is in the throes of becoming more tolerant, inclusive, and aware of choices that protect our planet and ourselves. Where there is growth, there is pushback – anxiety, fear and dread of the unknown. Trusting that everything is as it should be can be most helpful and comforting.
In the meantime, I’m frequently asked, “But what can I do when it all feels so overwhelming?” I believe that we hold power in how we chose to live on a daily basis. If I focus my attention on noticing good and thinking about the things I can control, I’m using my attention and energy to build optimism and happiness rather than to deepen worry and sadness.
It can also mean making conscious choices about the foods and products you buy, asking the questions: “Does this help or harm our environment?” “Does this help or harm my health and the health of my family?” Those preferences can contribute to our feeling more in control of our environment.
You always have a choice to bring happiness to yourself and others (even if you have to fake it on the days you’re not feeling optimal Chi). We know it is not realistic, nor is it desirable, to be happy all the time. Negative emotions are natural.
But you can make a decision to smile at a stranger; to say “Thank you” to wait staff at restaurants, including those who fill your water glass or remove your plates. You can plant a garden or fill a pot with flowers that make you and passersby smile. Volunteering seems to bring everyone happiness. There are hundreds of small ways to bring a bit of happiness to others and yourself on a daily basis. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi