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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Giving is Good but So Is Receiving

I actually have more thoughts cooking in my head regarding happiness.

I’ve already written about gratitude, and I’ll be honest, it’s one of the simplest and quickest ways to exercise your happiness muscles.  It’s something we still practice, though it has evolved quite a bit.  It boggles my mind that we’ve been doing it for over four years now!  I don’t know how to measure how much happier it’s made us, but I can say that dinner conversations are definitely more enjoyable than they used to be.  Counting blessings on a regular basis helps remind us of the good in our lives that we might otherwise take for granted.

Another thing I’ve written about (maybe less directly?) is how much volunteering has helped build my own personal happiness.  It’s been proven again and again that volunteering is a great way to flex your happiness muscles.  We know that committing altruistic acts can contribute to happier marriages and can also help with stress reduction and improved immune systems

The thing is, most of my friends are already involved in “giving back” in some way, so I don’t really need to preach to them on the benefits of giving back. In fact, if anything, when helping others becomes a burden or an obligation, it becomes the stress and unhappiness we’re trying so hard to avoid.  November and December tend to be months of goodwill toward men where we give and give and give - often at an expense we can’t afford. 

So what do “givers” (or more to the point - OVER-givers) do to work on their happiness skills?

This exact topic came up several times during the month of December.  My friend BW recently started counseling.  While it’s her journey to share or keep private, there was something that struck me that I really wanted to share here because it has been part of my own continuing journey.  She told me that her assignment for the week was to do three nice things for herself before her next session.  She was at a loss.  What does that mean?  How does that even apply to day to day life?  How does one give to oneself, anyway?  She was baffled and I recall going through the same sort of frustration during my own counseling sessions. 

So my challenge for those of you out there who are constant givers is to give to yourself this week:


It doesn’t have to be something big (although, you really do deserve that massage… just saying!) and it doesn’t have to be material.  Sometimes, the best gift you can give yourself is forgiving/going easy on yourself.  Givers are have the notoriously worst “inner critics” in their heads.  They are the best cheerleaders for those around them, but don’t offer themselves that same encouragement and nurturing.  This week, be the cheerleader to yourself that you are to the people around you.  Or, you know, just give yourself permission to let the dishes go a day, or take your full lunch break, or to take a walk alone and just enjoy the scenery.  Speaking from personal experience, it is definitely a happiness builder.

Now for those of you who are already practiced at pampering yourselves, you know that there are some things you can’t give to yourself.  If you’re thirsty, you can get yourself a drink, but if you’re lonely, you’ll want to find someone else to help you alleviate your need.  If you’re in this category, I wanted to propose a different challenge:


Even though I know that the results can be fabulous, I still have to work really hard at asking.  I get so worried that if I tell someone around me that I need help with something that they’ll think I’m not competent, or they’ll feel burdened.  I don’t want to impose on people and I don’t want them to stop liking me.  Interestingly, a recent article I read suggests that asking others for help may not only contribute to one’s own happiness, but also the happiness of the person asked.  Turns out, people like to be needed and wanted.  Apparently, there’s this weird reverse psychology of likeability where people will like you more (and presumably thereby build their own happiness) by doing things for you!  Crazy, huh?

So when I say ask someone to do something for you, this doesn’t have to be some grand gesture or some huge statement.  This can be as simple as asking a co-worker to help you finish with a project or asking your kiddo to unload the dishwasher or letting your spouse know you need some cuddle time.  It may just mean calling a friend and just letting them know that you miss him or her and would like a little of their time. 

If I ask you for something this week, remember - I’m practicing, so go easy on me!

For those who take either challenge, I’d love to hear how it pans out (here or privately.)

Posted by Liberty on 01/03 at 05:43 AM
Posted under: See-Through

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