What you put out into the world—for better or for worse—can have a lasting effect on other people. If following your passion also serves to benefit others, that extra dimension magnifies the joy and energy churned by your efforts. It makes you want to do more. For masters and for each of us, the cycle of doing good/feeling good is invigorating, even intoxicating. It sees us through times of self-doubt. Here, the lessons—and your private notebook.
We want to know that we matter. We want to know that we were heard and that what we had to say meant something.
Sometimes, the closer a person is to us, the harder it can be to let them know they matter—we assume they just know. How can you, through words or actions, let the people in your life know that they are important to you? What would give them acknowledgement and encouragement?
Prepare yourself so that you can be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Who has been a rainbow in your cloud? How can you take that experience and prepare yourself, as Maya Angelou says, to be a blessing to somebody?
Whenever you are blue or lonely or stricken by some humiliating thing you did, the cure and the hope is in caring about other people.
Taking action is the antidote to feeling powerless, and taking action for others is the antidote to feeling useless. Can you think of a time when you took your mind off yourself by giving attention to someone else? Did that change your state of mind?
We all know how gloom, anxiety or anger can spread from one person to another. Through a process called "emotional contagion," negativity goes viral, fueling everything from bad moods to wars. If you've been exposed to emotional negativity and aren't feeling so great, here's a cure: For your own sake, do something that's not for your own sake.
Almost all ancient wisdom traditions tell us that one of the most self-serving things we can do is to serve others. Now modern science is backing up this advice, showing that helping other people benefits our brains, our hormones, our hearts, our longevity and our overall physical and psychological well-being.
One reason interpersonal connections affect us so powerfully is that our brains are designed to physically "mirror" one another's experience. Ever find yourself chuckling along with a laughing baby on YouTube? Even if you can't see the reason for the hilarity, your brain automatically "reflects" the baby's happiness and amusement. It's the same reason you wince when someone else cuts himself or feel your heart beat faster when a movie hero is in danger.
Give someone comfort, and you'll feel your own body relax.
On any given day, your mirroring brain is barraged by a random assortment of feelings, reflecting the plethora of experience you see around you. This is a good thing if you're looking at someone who's having a good experience—so create good experiences. Ease someone else's burden; you'll feel lighter as your neurons mirror theirs. Give someone comfort, and you'll feel your own body relax. Find something to praise in another person, and your self-esteem will go up.
Drive Yourself Happy
Aside from pure mirroring, setting out to help others makes you the originator of contagious moods, not just their passive reflector. We tend to pursue happiness by trying to obtain things we lack. That's an iffy proposition, and it focuses all our attention on our own neediness. If we don't get what we want, we may end up feeling victimized, which predisposes us to anger and depression. Kindness and helpfulness, by contrast, generate positive circumstances from within. They give us a sense of efficacy we can't get from trying to control all the forces that impact our lives. Moreover, helping others tends to create one of the most powerful psychological conditions known to humankind: gratitude.
Gratitude or Dread? Your Choice
You don't need to exhaust or impoverish yourself to start the positive cycle of positive feeling. Simply expressing gratitude flips the switch that shuts off things like dread and anxiety and turns on positive emotions. This is a physical fact: The part of the brain that experiences appreciation and gratitude can't be active at the same time as the part that feels fear. Positive psychologists have found that giving thanks is the closest thing we have to a magic bullet for curing unhappiness. Receiving it motivates even more kindness. Positive feelings are as "contagious" as negative ones. Today, help yourself by helping someone else. You just might start a happiness epidemic.
Did this article trigger something in you? Is there a quote you want to save? You can use this space as a private notebook to save your aha! moments.