Happiness Can Be Bought: The Dividends of Service
For many, happiness is an elusive creature - seemingly disappearing when we think we've captured it. The degree, the job, the car, the promotion, the house, the body - all may bring a sustained moment of reward, thrill and possibly relief. And these accomplishments and things are not bad. On the contrary - their attainment is advantageous. Education is incredibly important for self-reliance and contribution to society. A reliable car is necessary for many to get to a secure job. Taking care of your physical body brings increased energy, decreased illness and longevity of life.
However, "a state of well-being and contentment" - and particularly a state we can cultivate to expand, resulting in increased happiness - is not found in accomplishments or possessions. And anyone who has hoped to find it in this way is still seeking for the contentment that satisfies the soul.
So, exactly how can true happiness be "bought"? I propose it's purchased with our time and our effort - specifically geared toward providing service to another person.
We already know (at least some) of the physical and mental impact volunteering or serving has on an individual. Strong relationships exist between volunteering and low blood pressure, lower mortality rates, lower depression rates and stress reduction. Studies also consistently show higher life satifisfaction reports from individuals who volunteer compared to non-volunteers.
Let's go beyond the research. Over my lifetime, I have personally heard a hundred (or more) anectodal accounts of the benefits of serving, including social connectedness, learning new skills, networking and "having fun." The number one comment, though - without fail - is "I feel so great (happy)." I can also attest through my own personal experience of these truisms.
An acquaintance of mine calls serving/volunteering the "magic elixir" - referring to its power to change your attitude and outlook and emotional state from irritation or discouragement (or any negative energy) to one of joy.
Somehow, sincerely providing acts of service to another human being literally changes physiological processes in our bodies that result in emotional states of happiness and joy. It really is that simple.
Of course, a sustained positive energy and happy emotional state require diligence in the acts of doing. One act of service is probably not going to keep your feeling of joy strong for the entire year. The upside is so many opportunities for helping someone(s) exist, you'll never be without the opportunitiy to seek happiness.
So, invest the time and the effort. And watch the return on investment change your life - and the lives around you. Go be happy.
Shine On. -Kimberly
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