In a frenzy of new gym memberships, guitar classes and flight tickets, this new year, like every other, we swore to focus on ourselves. We decided this would be the year we would finally begin to focus on our physical and mental well-being, our relationships with ourselves and with others. We resolved to reconnect with old friends, to turn back to old hobbies, to strengthen our identities and skills, to advance in our careers and so on; the aim, in summary, was to become happier.
But do these things, material or otherwise, really guarantee happiness? If yes, why do we seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle of unhappiness, trying different versions of the same solutions to the same problems every single year and giving up before the end of January? When we were kids, we wanted to change the world and save lives. Why do most of us forget this desire somewhere in that transition from childhood to adulthood as we struggle miserably to save ourselves?
They say that you could pay off your debts, build a full emergency fund, save up for your dream retirement plans, for your children’s college, but your true happiness would lie in the ultimate personal finance principle: giving.
The science of kindness and generosity is sadly underestimated. What we know is that giving to a charitable cause is a good habit encouraged by good parents who want to bring up good children. What we don’t know is that researchers have observed that when you give, your brain activity is similar to when you’re having sex or eating chocolate. In the long run, giving is believed to induce a sense of purpose and accomplishment, similar to a promotion or winning a medal in a sport. Instant pleasure + heightened confidence in oneself = happiness.
It doesn’t even have to be a giant donation to a local charity foundation. In fact, you can give so much more than just your money away. It can be an act of kindness as small as a weekly visit to an animal shelter. It can be as simple as making the choice to forgive someone. It can be an easy (and healthy) lifestyle switch like buying local produce to empower a farmer. Because when all else goes wrong, you can tell yourself this: no matter what, I made someone, somewhere, a little happier today. And that’s an important achievement, don’t you agree?
PS. I found the furry little guy in the picture above on myfanatic.com. However, dozens of strays like him are waiting to find loving homes in shelters like Save Our Strays, AMTM and so on. If you can’t adopt one, go on over to give them some cuddles and make their day!