How to Have a Happy Life Every Day

The World Happiness Report states that “over 1 billion adults suffer from anxiety and depression.” How can we combat this depression? Jacqueline Way, Founder of 365give.ca, shares a secret to happiness so simple a 3 year-old can do it. Check out her TEDx Talk below, and then read on for ways to start giving today.

Satisfied Children Become Satisfied Adults

Like most mothers, Way wanted her children to grow into happy, contributing adults. But she was discouraged by the findings of the World Happiness Report that said we are more depressed and anxious than ever before. And worse, this tendency extends to children as well. Unfortunately, as adults, this is what children learn from us: they see how busy we are and how we struggle with unhappiness.

Way began to worry about her own children’s happiness and wonder if there was a way to curb the adult tendency toward dissatisfaction and depression.

Then she learned that the best predictor of whether a child becomes a satisfied adult comes from their emotional state as children. She decided to start now, with her own young children, to teach them to be happy early on.

We Feel Happy When We Give

Researchers have studied the science of happiness, and found that our brains and bodies are actually hardwired for giving. When we give, our endorphins kick in and we experience what is known as a “helper’s high.” Serotonin levels, the happiness hormone, rise; and cortisol levels, the stress hormone, drop.

In other words, giving reduces anxiety, stress, and unhappiness.

Way told her then-three year-old that they were going to do something nice for someone once per day, every day, for a year. And then they started doing it. It was as simple as that.

But then it grew.

Giving Begets Giving

In order for friends and family members to follow their journey, Way started a blog called 365give.ca to document her and her son’s various daily “gives.” She was surprised when she got readers and commenters from all over the world, many of whom had started their own 365give journeys. Soon, she heard from teachers who implemented daily gives in their classrooms, and she realized she could help.

Way developed actual classroom curriculum for 365give, and today thousands of children around the world participate in daily gives as part of their classroom experience.

5 Ways to Give Today

Even though it’s scientifically shown that “giving to others activates the regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust” (source), it doesn’t mean giving comes naturally. Maybe you used to be a giving person, but you’ve forgotten how to do it. Here is a list of quick and easy ways to jumpstart your giving today.

  1. Start a neighbourhood cleanup project. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of organization; it doesn’t even have to involve anyone else besides you. Go on a walk with a bag and gloves. Set a period of time or a certain distance (ten minutes, or once around the block), and pick up as much garbage as you can. Not only will your neighbourhood look better, but your neighbours will probably notice and appreciate your efforts. They might even join you next time!
  2. Clear out your closets. You already know you’ll feel happier with less stuff, and you’ll also have a nice pile of items to donate to someone in need. An obvious place is a thrift store or charity shop, but sometimes it’s more fun to post a picture of your available items on Kijiji or local freecycle groups. That way you can actually see and meet the person your items will help.
  3. Grow a garden and donate surplus to neighbours or your local food bank. Food banks love donations, but they really love donations of fresh, locally-grown produce. Imagine if you received help from a food bank: canned beans and tuna fish would get tiresome. A gift of fresh fruit and vegetables could be a very welcome change.
  4. Talk to someone. Think about all the different people you come in contact with each day: the barista who hands you your coffee. The teller at the bank. The friendly stranger who holds the elevator for you. You may come face-to-face with dozens of people every single day, but do you ever take the time to look them in the eye, ask how their day is going, or thank them for their work? So often, we’re “just too busy” for things like that. But when you think that a simple pleasant exchange could make a positive difference in a stranger’s day—or a dozen strangers’ days—it seems impossible that we’re really that busy. Just try it!
  5. Donate spare towels and blankets to an animal shelter. If you’re already a minimalist and don’t have any to spare, ask friends and family for donations. This was the first daily give that Way learned her three year-old really understood the benefit behind their efforts.

Life is busy, but if you make it a habit to give, you might become a happier, less-stressed person. How can you give to someone today?

About The Author

Camille Fairbanks

Camille Fairbanks was born and raised in Arizona and now resides in Lethbridge, AB. She received her BA in English from the University of Lethbridge; she now raises her children and her garden full time, and enjoys writing about minimalism and the Zero Waste lifestyle on her blog, The Non-Waster.