4 March 2008

Choosing happiness

Recently my sister Kathleen sent me a magazine article called Grin and Tonic. I don't know what magazine it's from, there was a time when I knew every popular magazine by their page style, now I'm happy that I don't know. Anyhow, it's a very interesting view on happiness. In part it reads:
"While not exactly simple, some of their findings suggest there may indeed be a science to happiness - even a recipe. (And if your own idea of happiness is a flat-screen TV or a pair of Jimmy Choo heels then cover your eyes because the truth is, well, not very glamorous.)
When University of Wisconsin researcher Dr Richard Davidson hooked up a Tibetan monk to an MRI and asked him to meditate on, of all things, compassion, he got the most surprising result of all.
"There as a dramatic increase in activity in the areas of the brain associated with happiness. There is an inextricable link between personal happiness and kindness."

Well, well, well. Fancy that. So all those times our mothers and grandmothers told us to be kind to others they were really showing us the way to personal happiness.

The article goes on to state that in another study they found that five random acts of kindness a week for six weeks "produced a dramatic increase in the subjects' levels of happiness".

This is one thing I know to be true. I know that being kind to others makes me happy. And it's more than the feeling I get when I am thanked for a kindness, it's more than the smile that sets on my face when I see the delight of someone who has been surprised by kindness, it's more than that, much more. This kind of happiness is within, it's more permanent than a fleeting smile, this kind of happiness stays with you, it can be built upon.

Before I changed my life I was kind to others but never went out of my way to be. Now that it's a more conscious action I make sure I'm kind whenever the opportunity arises and I have deliberately chosen to spend some of my time where I will be in a position to help others. It has made such a difference. It has shown me that my own life truly is blessed, that giving is much better than receiving, that my soul is enriched by people I would otherwise not have met and that my life is better by doing this simple thing.

There is a knack to kindness - it should be quiet and matter-of-fact. Grand acts of kindness, done only for the thanks or what will come from it, are quite the opposite of what I'm writing about. This kindness is often carried out with no thanks or expectations of it. And I'm not talking about making yourself a doormat either. This kindness will make you stronger. Doormat kindness is loud and obvious and done to make yourself popular or to look good. I think real kindness is like a whisper, only you and the recipient know.

I have never been happier than I am now and I owe that to the kind of life I live. I have deliberately made the choices that give me this kind of life and I repeat those deliberate choices almost every day. I knew long before I lived this way that kindness, generosity and sharing would be a big part of my life but until I started living it, I didn't know how happy I would be made by those simple choices.

If you feel that your life is out of control and you're not sure how to steady it, think about what I've written here. You can change at any point by making small, deliberate choices in your every day life. Kindness is easy and simple but the rewards that come from the quiet execution of it are far more complex than I can fathom. All I know is that I have been changed by giving and if you can change one person's life by an act of kindness, then you will start to change your own life too.



  1. What a lovely way to start the day Rhonda Jean! Thanks and big hugs.

    I have read some other research that talks about the recipe for happiness being "something to do, someone to care for and something to look forward to"

    as simple and as easy as that!

    I love the concept of "random acts of kindness"

    duckie xxxx

  2. Love you blog and it inspires me everyday sitting at my desk. Can you enable full text for readers? Thanks

  3. Oh Rhonda this is great as I'm having a blah misery me kind of day, but for the next week I'm going to try to do 1 random act of kindness each day. I'm sure there will be lots of opportunities I just haven't taken the time to look out for them.

    cheers Lenny

  4. Thanks for the uplifting message!

  5. Thank you Rhonda Jean.
    I believe the adage of "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

    I enjoy reading your entries on gardening, cricket (I watched while in England) and simplicity. I admit I kinda skip over the swapping of tea cozies and such, but really enjoy reading about your seemingly extra-ordinary "ordinary" life.

    The words on happiness strike a chord with me, as I've noted also that after serving others and moving to a simple lifestyle, that my level of contentment has gone way beyond what my coworkers express to me. They all wonder how I can be so upbeat when I have such a simple life and outlook.

    Anyway, it is very good to know that the path I'm on is the one that both works for me, and thankfully works for others as well. Validation is a good thing.

    On another note, I've given up trying to beat getting a post up before you, since you are so far "ahead" in time!

  6. In Buddhism, there is a concept of "loving kindness", which is what you practice. They also have the idea that true happiness comes from such things as kindness. Temporary happiness comes from material things, because once one has them, s/he soon wants more.

    It sounds like this is what that article was about.

  7. Sounds like a great article. Do you happen to have the title of the article if you don't know where it came from?

  8. There was a series on BBC a couple of years ago called Making Slough Happy ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4436482.stm or http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article588739.ece for details) which I found really interesting. They had a happiness manifesto which I printed out at the time and still look at nearly every day. Sometimes I'm better able to achieve all ten items on it than at other times but even just reading it is an encouragement to me. The articles I've linked to give the this but worded slightly differently to what I have. Can't find the link to download the PDF of it now, sorry. No. 6 is one that has had a huge impact on me: Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger (at least once a day) - simple but very powerful, especially living in a big city.

  9. Rhonda Jean, One of my favorite Bible verses echoes your sentiments:

    Colossians 3:12

    Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

    I try to 'clothe' myself with kindness each day. And you are right...it does lead to happiness! Not a temporary, fleeting feeling...but deep down happiness!

  10. Hi everyone, thank you.

    Welcome James.

    Brad, I've read a lot of books about Buddhism and have been influence very much by their comcepts of kindness, happiness and generosity.

    Cheri, thank you for sharing those bible verses.

    Thanks for the links, Jean.

  11. Thank you Jean. :-)

  12. This is so true. I would love to link to this post on my own blog. Would you care? So much good informatiion. Thanks for sharing

  13. I was on my granddaughters blog when I left that last comment on linking to my blog. Sorry. I didn't realize it.

  14. Hi Rhonda, I am reading your blog from the beginning (again) and I must say that this is a very interesting article. One that stays in my head and I will rethink these lines for a while. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. It's a very worthwhile thing to think about, Jacqueline.


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