Although it seems counter-intuitive, happiness often deserts us when we are focused on our own happiness! Constantly thinking of ourselves–our wants, our needs, our loneliness, our lack–can cause us to feel depressed and empty. There is one sure way to overcome these feelings.
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served as a missionary in England as a young man. When he first arrived, he met with little success, and much opposition. He became very discouraged and wanted to return home. He wrote a letter to his father, explaining that he was wasting his time and his father’s money. His father wrote back a very short letter that said: “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.” Before receiving the letter that day, he had read in the Bible, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35). From that day forward, he dedicated himself to the Lord and completed an honorable mission, serving the people of England to the best of his ability.
Kristen Duke, of the popular blog Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke, shares a similar experience. She says:
“I’ve found that when I am feeling sad, the best thing I can do is look for someone else that I can help. I remember when I had my first baby. I had moved far away from friends and family, my husband was in school, I was in a ghetto apartment in the winter, and I felt alone. I was sad, and I remember praying to be guided to someone who was more sad than me. I knew that I could feel better if I could help someone else–take the focus off me. That prayer was answered, and I was led to someone who was truly struggling–much more than I was. I had the opportunity to be a friend, to listen, and to help someone who was more sad than I was. I see this time in my life as a huge blessing, as it reminds me that if I am feeling down, I can feel better by lifting someone else up. Look for ways to serve others, and I promise you will feel more happy than if you just dwell on your woes.”
It’s easy to find ways to serve. What we do doesn’t have to be big or even take a lot of time. Here are some things you can do today to serve others:
1. Smile and say something nice. Dorothy Kern, from Crazy for Crust, says, “I try to put smiles on other people’s faces by saying a kind word or simply smiling at them. You’d be amazed at how far a smile will go.” Try complimenting the checker at the grocery store. Their hair, their eyes, their fingernail polish. As simple or silly as that sounds, it might just make their day, and you’ll feel happier, too.
2. Do something special for a member of your family. Slip a cookie into your child’s lunch, or a note telling them how great you think they are. Send your husband or wife an email at work telling them how much you appreciate them. Call your parents and say thanks for all they did to raise you.
3. Volunteer at your kids’ school. This doesn’t have to be a long-term thing. You can even just go for one day to make copies, read to kids, or help out in the office.
4. Leave friendly, genuine comments on social media. Yes, it may take a little extra time, but lots of us bloggers wonder if people even read our blogs or care about what we have to say. A sincere comment makes us feel like all our work is worthwhile.
If you are looking for a service project in your community, there is a wonderful website called Justserve.org that lists service opportunities in your area. This is a great resource for youth groups or families to find ways to get involved and improve their communities.
What other ways do you find to serve? Leave your ideas in the comments. I would love to get a lot more service suggestions!
And remember, if you missed any previous installments in the Happiness series, you can find them all on my Happiness page.