Do Nice Guys Finish Happiest?
Why increasing your kindness/altruism can increase happiness
Posted Jul 09, 2011
I know what you're thinking: Maybe the manufacturers just can't make it! But, I'm betting if there were big bucks to be made in Kindness Cocktail or Altruism Nectar, companies would find a way to make that juice. Besides, are you really sure any of those other juices (Passion Power, Get Smart Juice, etc) work anyway? Yet you might be tempted to buy them, just for the hope they will help. I am betting companies would never even bother to put in the research to create a Kindness Cocktail or a Altruism Nectar, because they have a corporate sense that kindness and altruism are just not valued enough in this world to make the big bucks profits they're hankering for.
Unfortunately, this kind of explains much of the mess our world is in globally. And it also explains why people are so unhappy personally. Kindness/Altruism is a proven key Top Happiness Determinator - right up there alongside two very well known proven Happiness Determinators: "having high self esteem" and "sharing intimate connections with others." It thereby makes sense being Kind/Altruistic would make you happier. After all, the more you are these qualities, the more you wind up raising your self esteem - because you like who you are being. Plus the more you increase your connections with others, because people feel safe to be open and communicative with you. So, in the end, when you're Kind/Altruistic, you wind up tapping into all three out of three of these Top Happiness Determinators.
Plus, here are some other quickie quirky facts on the perks of kindness...
Sonja Lyubormirsky, author of The How of Happiness, has reported on how volunteers have been shown to see even greater benefits than the people they're helping. For example, one study followed women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who volunteered as peer supporters to other patients. These women with MS received training in things like "compassionate listening techniques" and were instructed to call the patients to talk/listen to them for 15 minutes at a time. At the end of three years, the study revealed that the volunteers had increased their self-esteem, self-acceptance, life-satisfaction, self-efficacy, and had feelings of mastery over their life. And these positive outcomes for the kindly, altruistic volunteers were, as mentioned, far greater than the perks for the patients themselves.
Positive psychology professor and author Martin Seligman has also reported big boosts of happiness coming from what he calls leading "A Meaningful Life" - where you use personal strengths to be of kindly, altruistic service. In an experiment Seligman called "Philanthropy versus Fun," Seligman divided his psychology students so some engaged in pleasurable activities (going to the movies, eating yummy ice cream) and the others did philanthropic activities (volunteering at a soup kitchen, reading to the blind).
Guess what? The happiness afterglow of the fun was nada compared to the lasting happiness of doing altruistic acts. Meaning? Doing good for others will also make you feel good - and, according to Seligman, your highest level of feel-good.
Plus, as many of my regular readers already know, I'm a big fan of Aristotle's philosophies on the importance (and subsequent happiness-perks) of leading what Aristotle calls The Good Life.
The speedy (and admittedly somewhat sassy!) cliff notes on Aristotle's philosophies about The Good Life: Aristotle put forth that true happiness comes from leading a life where you put in the discipline of acting with good strong character - so you can grow into your highest potential self. For Aristotle, The Good Life equals The Admirable Life - where you do actions your soul (aka: "core self") can be proud of - and actions which stimulate and stretch your soul ("core self"). Plus - Aristotle also put forth that your soul ("core self") will always know if you're acting with good character - because your soul ("core self") always knows what you're doing/saying - or not doing/saying - as if your soul ("core self") has an ongoing candid camera lens on the reality of your life - following you wherever you go! If you're naughty too often, your soul ("core self") will always know you're misbehaving, and you will become unhappy, because you're shrinking who you are - lowering your potential - thereby lowering your mood and your sense of self along with it all.
To quote Aristotle directly: "Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them." Meaning? You can dupe some of the people some of the time - even dupe all of the people all of the time - but there is no way you can dupe your soul! For this reason, one of Aristotle's big secrets for happiness is: Do actions you are proud of!
Unfortunately, here in America this big secret for happiness seems to be remaining a big secret for far too many people. Unfortunately there are a plethora of people who have sold their souls - who are willing to behave with bad character values (i.e., being unkind, being ungenerous, being inconsiderate, being unloving, being immoral) because they feel there is much greater value to be gained from power, money, fame, glory, beauty, and/or status.
But according to Aristotle, there's a price to be paid by people with sold souls (or what I sassily refer to as "soulds"!). People with "soulds" will always feel a bit of a low grade depression - because their candid camera of a soul/sould will always know that they've behaved badly - and thereby they will not benefit from the happiness perks received when leading what Aristotle called The Good Life/Admirable Life - which in many ways is the equivalent of what Seligman called A Meaningful Life!
Basically, Aristotle believed that every time you behaved unkind and immorally - performing actions your soul was not proud of - you tarnished your soul. The worst shape your soul became in, the worst shape your mood and spirit. In my opinion, this "bad sould" theory on unkindness leading to unhappiness explains why drugs like Zoloft might not work long-term on many people. (NOTE: I'm referring to people without true chemical imbalances).
It's like this: If you take drugs like Zoloft, and don't change some of your bad/unkind habits which make you dislike who you are - and/or make other people dislike who you are - then you're simply making superficial changes in your brain chemistry. Although drugs like Zoloft might be able to temporarily fool your brain chemistry into believing you are a happy person, these drugs will never work on your soul/core self's view of who you are. Nor will they work on other people's views of who you are. Meaning? If you continue to behave in unkind, bad ways to others, you will continue to feel bad abour your life - and have lower self esteem and unsatisfying relationships - all of which will take you in the complete opposite direction of the happiness-inducing Good Life/Admirable Life/Meaningful Life!
Your Assignment: Today be aware of doing small kindnesses to others. Give an extra smile, sweet gesture, warm compliment, generous favor. Also, ask your self what loving deed can you do? How can you help those in need?Make it a goal to make as many people as you can smile/ laugh. Consider getting involved with a charity where you can make an ongoing contribution.
Want to make sure you're living your happiest, highest potential life? Check out more about best selling author Karen Salmansohn -who's had over 1 million books sold! She's the author of The Bounce Back Book which you can read more about by clicking here now! - You can follow her on Twitter. She's @notsalmon Or connect with her on Facebook by clicking here now! Or visit Karen's website by clicking here - and signing up for her Be Happy Dammit Newsletter. You'll be in a happy crowd of about 20,000 members!