The Link between Altruism and Happiness: Do Good, Feel Good

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Many of us have heard the oft-repeated age-old adage: it is better to give than to receive. A study published in 2005 by the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that this aphorism may be more accurate than one would think.

The journal article titled Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to be Good written by Stephen G. Post details links between altruistic emotions and behaviors and greater well-being, health, and longevity.

Stephen G. Post is a professor, author, and researcher who teaches at the Stoney Brook University School of Medicine. He has written multiple best-selling books on achieving happiness through giving to others. His 2008 book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People: A Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, draws from this study.

The health findings are particularly interesting. One finding is that receiving love could lower your risk of developing heart disease. Rabbits that were talked to, pet, and cared for while being fed developed 60% less atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of arteries, than rabbits not cared for similarly that ate similar diets high in fat. Other studies show that individuals who reported a warm relationship to their mothers were less likely to develop coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, alcoholism, and duodenal ulcers than those who did not report a warm relationship to their mother. These studies lay out the basically undisputed knowledge that receiving love makes us healthier individuals.

The eye-opening finding from this study was that higher health and happiness results were associated with giving love and help rather than receiving it. Findings from the study suggest that cultivating loving emotions and engaging in helping activities may contribute to health and longevity by preventing the accelerating of aging on the cellular level. This could mean life extension on a macro scale if one was to help consistently throughout a lifetime.

Additionally, there are connections between helping others and boosting personal happiness. One study showed that adults aged 65 and older engaged in volunteerism had fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety and significantly higher scores in life-satisfaction than those who did not. Post also details studies that show that altruistic behavior has a connection to enhanced social integration, less focus on personal problems, enhanced meaningfulness, increased perception of self-efficacy and competence, improved mood, and an increased physical lifestyle. These improvements in mental and physical health are especially pronounced in older individuals.

Older individuals are not the only group that benefits from increased volunteerism. The study also shows that increased helping behavior contributes to diminished depression rates in adolescents. Teen depression is a significant mental health issued, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals aged 15 to 24. Increases in helping behavior may drive these numbers down.

The study’s conclusion is that a strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of individuals that are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable activities. The complete study can be found here.

These important insights can help us answer the question of how to be happy. Answers may lie in increasing volunteerism, spending time with loved ones, becoming more socially integrated into your community, and helping others rather than fixating on personal issues.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels.

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Proper Time Management and Goal Setting for Happiness

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This week has been crazy for me in terms of time management. It has been a constant flow of meetings, classes, homework, eating, sleeping, and other mundane, forgettable tasks. I literally feel as if I lost a week of time. I have over-scheduled myself. Because I have let the things that I do control me and not the other way around, I feel like a victim of circumstance that is ambling through life. I know what the antidote is though, so I am not worried. The solution to my problem is proper time management and clear goals.

Proper time management is essential to attaining a positive mindset. Are you going to sleep and waking up at consistent times? Do you know what you should be doing tomorrow at certain times throughout the day? A good tool for proper time management is Google calendar. It allows you to see every hour of every day and plan out how you spend that time. The hard part of using Google calendar is sticking to the times that you have set; however, it makes it easier if you have clearly defined goals to follow.

All of the time management in the world will not make you happy if you are using your time to go in a direction that you do not like. Ask yourself, what is important to me in the short-term and in the long-term? Does the way that I spend my time reflect that? Set S.M.A.R.T goals and use your time to achieve them.

Now that I have finished writing this post, I think that I will get on Google calendar myself and set up a schedule for proper time management!

Have an awesome day!

Be Willing to Laugh at Yourself

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I am not going to be the first person, nor am I going to be the last to tell you this well-known wisdom; things will go wrong. You are going to mess up, look like a fool, and embarrass yourself. Part of being a positive person is to be able to handle these unfortunate situations with grace. You could choose to stew about your downfalls. Some people will even lash out at others. This is a terrible idea as it hurts the relationships you have with others and you will garner a reputation of being a mean, nasty person. Alternatively, a tactful way to handle your inevitable screw-ups will be with humor; you need to be able to laugh at yourself.

It is important to take yourself seriously, but this should not come at the expense of losing the ability to use self-deprecating humor. Taking yourself too seriously is going to make you come off as egotistical and arrogant. Everybody knows that nobody is perfect, so do not pretend to be.

On the other side of this coin, do not be overly self-deprecating to the point that you make yourself out to be either a fool or someone with a low self-esteem. There is an important balance between laughing at yourself and taking yourself seriously.

If you notice that a friend or a stranger is having a bit of an embarrassing situation, do not turn it into a laughing matter until they decide to. It is good etiquette to do this because you do not want to offend your friend or make them feel even worse about their situation. Once they decide to laugh at themselves, then you are alright to join in for some playful laughter.

I used to have a phone wallpaper that said, “We are all just ghosts controlling meat skeletons on a floating rock that orbits a ball of fire.” It helped me put my life into perspective. When you realize how weird life is anyway, it makes it a lot easier to take it less seriously and lighten up a bit. Just have fun and be willing to laugh at yourself.

Have a splendid day!

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Be Brave

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Today, I went to a welcome event hosted by UNLV. It was held in a large stadium on campus and every freshman was supposed to attend the event. When I arrived, I was told to go find my specific college and sit in that area. The event started and it was like a pep rally. There were some motivational speeches and we learned a bit of history about UNLV. I liked the event. One thing really stuck with me through the event, however.

One of the speakers was a professor here at UNLV in psychology. UNLV’s motto is “Different, Daring, and Diverse.” He told us that being different is good, but sometimes being different leads to ostracization and bullying. There was an interactive activity where every person in the audience who had been bullied or had witnessed bullying was told to stand up. Nearly every single person in the building was on their feet. The professor said that when most people witness bullying, they either join in or try to ignore it.

It is hard to go against the grain. Bullying is not the dramatic, Hollywood presentation of a big, mean kid beating up a smaller kid. Bullying is the gossip between friends about someone else behind their back. Bullying is snapping photos of someone while they are not looking and writing rude captions. It is subtle and social in nature. When you see bullying like this, it is easy to step aside and let it continue. It definitely feels more comfortable. But sometimes, the right thing to do is not the most comfortable.

Standing up for your vulnerable peers is difficult, but necessary. Stepping into the situation to stop it will possibly make you a target, and it will take a certain amount of confidence. If you are able to spot it happening, chances are that other people have noticed it as well and are thinking the same thing as you. All it takes is twenty seconds of confidence to tell someone that they are doing the wrong thing. That is all it takes to defend someone and be an ally for someone that needs one. That is bravery.

There are times in life when you will have an opportunity to make a choice between standing up for someone in need or shrinking away. These are the moments that will define you and define your character. You might be the only one to speak up and it might be unbearably uncomfortable, but know that you will be viewed as a person with integrity and loyalty. All you are is your name, and having integrity and loyalty attached to your name is a great honor. It does not take a hero to stop bullying, it just takes a bit of courage to go against the norm and do the right thing.

Have a wonderful day!

Take It One Step at a Time

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I am wiped out. Yesterday, I spent the entire day waiting in airports and flying home from Nashville. The trip to see the eclipse was really fun, and I had some interesting experiences I do not think I will ever forget. Oh, and I found my wallet in my bag when I got home last night, what a relief!

Last night when I came home, I was stressed. I flew in at 8:30 in the evening and when I got home, there were some last-minute things I had to do to get ready to move in to my dorm the next day. Laundry, packing, and a surprise text notifying me that I had been dropped from my math class all stressed me out after a long day of flying and a six-hour layover. It was not very fun.

My wonderful mother gave me this advice last night as I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to figure out what to do next. She said, “Slow down. Just take it one step at a time. What is one thing you can do right now to make your life easier?”

When she said that, the first thought in my mind was to start the first load of laundry. I got my clothes out of my travelling bags and out of my hamper and started. One thing down, so I asked myself again, what is one thing I can do to make my life easier? Then, I thought about packing up the clothes in my dresser. I repeated this little process until everything had been accomplished and I was ready to go to bed.

This is an approach to difficulties that should be employed whenever it feels like there is an insurmountable mountain of obstacles in front of you. If you picture your problems in sizes that large, you will overwhelm yourself and you might even paralyze yourself from making any progress at all. You must start visualizing your problems in small, simple steps. That is all any problem is, a series of small, simple steps. Just take the time to break it down and try not to think of it as a singular, monumentally large issue to resolve.

Today, I had more issues to solve. I had moved into my dorm and I had a giant list of things that needed to be done. It seemed like a repeat of yesterday. I noticed however that when I started to think about it singular steps like my mother had advised, it all got a little easier. First, unpack this box. Then, figure out why you have been dropped from your class. Next, talk to the admissions office about your transcript. This way of thinking makes accomplishing a lot of things much, much easier.

If you are facing a world of difficulties right now, try not to look at the big picture so much. Just take it one step at a time. Remember to ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do right now to make my life easier?” You will lose a lot of the stress that you have and you will start making swift progress on solving your problems.

Have a beautiful day!

Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

The Importance of Being On Time

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When I was in high school, I had used to be a distance runner in track and field. Our team’s coach always pressed us to show up to practice in a timely fashion. He loved to say, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you might as well not even show up.”

While I do not agree completely with the statement, it is a good way to begin talking about how important it is to be on time for your happiness.

Obviously, being late can cause stress. When we are late, we let down other people’s expectations and it can damage relationships. It makes you look unreliable, unprofessional, and uncaring. Imagine what the person who is waiting on you feels like when you show up late! They probably feel like you do not value their time, and extending that further, they feel like you do not value them. If you are ever late, make sure to apologize sincerely and try to make it up to them.

Likewise, just barely being on time also causes stress. Poor planning or procrastination can lead to last-minute rushing to get something done right before the deadline. If you are trying to produce something, this reduces the quality of your work. It also makes working less enjoyable because you are so pressed to finish whatever it is you are working on.

To alleviate all of this stress, give yourself extra time to complete tasks and get to places. If you leave the house half an hour earlier, you are setting yourself up for success later in the day. You will not have to worry about being on time and you can take some time to enjoy life around you. If you show up to an appointment early, shoot the breeze with the person waiting with you! Alternatively, you could carry a book around with you to break out instead of your phone. This way, you will have many opportunities to read and you will be able to finish books sooner.

I hate being late. I would rather be fifteen minutes early than late, and I am always surprised that this is not a universal feeling. When people tell me that they will be somewhere at a time like 9:30, yet they arrive at 10:00, I am upset with them. If you are notoriously late, you should give yourself more time to get ready or travel so that your friends do not become upset with you!

Have an amazing day!

 

Clear Space, Clear Mind

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I have been preparing to head off for university now for a few months. After a bit of planning, list-making, and packing, I finished putting my room into boxes. All of my items have been separated into three different categories; boxes of stuff to be stored at home, boxes of stuff that comes with me to university, and boxes of stuff to get sold or tossed. It is easy to decide what you want to take to school, it is a lot harder to decide what gets the boot. Going through every item I had made me go on a little trip though memory lane, and it can be hard to know what is sentimental and what is useless junk. In the end, everything found its place (everything always finds it place somewhere 😊), and my room is packed away.

There is no door on my closet, it is just an indent in the wall. From that closet came chaos. Piles of shoes, old clothes I was never going to wear again, disorganized papers and folders from school left over the years, it was a mess. When it was cleaned out, it was like a mental weight had been lifted off of me. After I had finished cleaning out my closet, I went through my drawers, my dresser, and the items and around my desk. It took me a while to finish, but after I was completely done packing my room away, I immediately felt amazing.

Looking around my room, the only items left were my furniture. You cannot tell whose room this was when looking around. Taking my posters down from the wall and removing the pictures I had hanging on the wall stripped the room void of its identity. It is a liberating, nostalgic feeling. There is a little tingle in my stomach when I walk in, it feels like I am on the onset of some fantastic, undetermined adventure. The room is now a much more productive place for me to work in.

You can replicate this. The majority of the things you own is made up of useless junk that is weighing you down, at least I know that was true for me. A lot of what you have is just easily forgettable things that you tell yourself is important but really is not. I had a drawer in my room where I put my most important papers, trinkets, and other really important sentimental items. After thorough examination, I figured out that a lot of the stuff I put there was not all that important at all. I ended up getting rid of half of the papers in that drawer and boxing up the rest. If you could cut down on half of the things you have, how much freer would you feel?

When you live in a chaotic, untidy environment, your mind is unsettled, unconsciously or not. For the entire time that you allow your mind to be in this state, you are robbing yourself of productivity and comfort. You deserve to feel great in your own room, take the time to make it a place that you want to spend time in!

Something that helped me make more defined decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of was to take the approach that everything will be thrown away in my room except for the stuff that I explicitly say that I want to keep. If you go through your items in this way rather than picking what to get rid of, it makes you really put effort into thinking about the reason this deserves to be kept.

Grab a garbage bag and go through your closet. Take the clothes that you are never going to wear again and put them in. You have a ton of these clothes. These clothes are usually still in good condition and can be worn and appreciated by someone else. Take these down to a Goodwill or a local shelter if you have one. It is a mutually beneficial trade-off. You are getting peace inside of your living space, someone else is getting new, comfortable clothes.

Have a splendid day!