A husband-and-wife seek out a counselor after 45 years of marriage. The counselor asks them what is the problem. The wife goes into a tirade, listing every problem they have ever had and all the 45 years they've been married. She goes on and on.
Finally, the counselor gets up, embraces the woman, and kisses her passionately. She sits stupefied.
The counselor turns to the husband and says, “That is what your wife needs, at least three times a week. Can you do that?”
The husband thinks for a moment and replies, “Well, I can get her here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays I play golf.”
As this joke suggests, we carry into each of our people encounters an opportunity to either amplify or diminish the happiness of others. Imagine the trail of happiness this husband could have left had he bothered to show his wife, everyday, how important she was to him.
But, it stretches beyond just enhancing the happiness of others. You see, people remember how we make them feel long after they forget what we say to them. By consciously and purposely leaving a trail of happiness wherever we go, we create the conditions to magnify our happiness as well. We….
Studies show that people who leave a trail of happiness are indeed more happy themselves. They keep their eyes are open to the gifts they can deliver to other people in their lives. They extend this beyond their family to people they encounter in the most ordinary of situations – the clerk at the pharmacy, the ticket agent at the airline counter, the waiter who serves their dinner. They don't do it to manipulate other people's approval, but out of an overflowing sense of generosity and gratitude.
Like the other happiness-producing practices I have offered in this blog series, Happiness on Purpose, anyone can cultivate the trail of happiness practice. It just takes your willingness to become aware of the opportunities that exist to do so and a commitment to practice till you develop the habit. Once you habituate this practice, just watch your mood rise, your pleasures multiply, your happiness elevate.
Here are a few things you can do to leave a trail of happiness. Start these practices today. Fake it till you make it.
1. Act local. I have this theory that, if everyone in the world contributing each day to the happiness of those within their immediate family, we’d transform the world. So, start at home. Make a conscious effort to compliment, affirm, or reinforce each of the people you live with, each one of them at least once each day. Observe how they react and enjoy the pleasure you give them. As a bonus, enjoy it when they start reciprocating in-kind, that is, if you sustain your practice for a couple of weeks.
2. Thank you's. Say “thank you” as often as you can – to family members, to friends, to coworkers, to casual acquaintances, to service people, to whomever. People appreciate the recognition, and they often respond in kind, enhancing your own pleasure quotient. Moreover, be alert to the kindness and courtesies we receive from others can keep us positive, appreciative, and hopeful, all bedrock perspectives necessary to experience our own daily happiness.
3. Stay connected. It is oh-too-easy in this busy life we lead to let relationships with friends and relatives slide. What a trail of happiness we can leave – and receive – when we make a point to keep connected with these special people. Call, email, visit these people on some regular schedule. By doing so, you not only bring happiness into their lives, but put yourself in a position to be pleasured as well.
4. Volunteer. I remember the pleasure I got from delivering Thanksgiving turkeys to needy families when in high school. One of my close friends sponsors a 5K run each September to collect money to help educate the children of wounded vets; he practically glows that time of year despite the hard work involved. Friends, colleagues, and even patients of mine reported how rewarded they feel when they do volunteer work at soup kitchens, the SPCA, homeless shelters, and the like. In addition to the benefits these type activities give to others, there is no calculation the amount of personal satisfaction one gets as a giver.
5. Be there. Nothing communicates love and appreciation more than just being there for another person at significant times in their lives. These can be happy times, say birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. Or, they can be times of adversity, such as the death of a parent, when one goes through a relationship break-ups, or perhaps when ill. You don't need to do more than just be there. You will be appreciated, you will most likely earn this person's loyalty, and, yes, you can feel proud of what you've done.
This blog concludes the group of ten I have devoted to strategies to increase your experience of happiness with the people of your life. In addition to Leave a Trail of Happiness, the other nine included:
(1) Practice premeditated acceptance and forgiveness;
(2) Take nothing personal;
(3) Be generous of spirit;
(4) Don't be needy;
(5) Expect misbehavior;
(6) Choose friends and lovers wisely;
(7) Be a generous giver;
(8) Listen, listen, listen; and
(9) Practice win-win.
The more you integrate these ten Happiness With Others strategies into your life, the happier you can expect to be. Spend an hour or two reviewing all ten of these blogs. Decide which ones would be of most benefit to you. Put them into practice in your daily life. See the results in your happiness quotient.
Starting in my September, 2014 blog, I will devote the next ten months to sharing strategies to be happy with your life in general. I welcome you back, with the hope that these new blogs, plus the ones already posted, will contribute to the happiness you want and deserve in your life.
Until then, with healthy, happy, and with passion.
Russell Grieger, Ph.D. is the author of several self-help books, all designed to empower people to create a life they love to live. These include: Unrelenting Drive; Marriage On Purpose, and The Happiness Handbook (in preparation). You may contact Dr. Grieger for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org