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Happiness Weekly’s best tips for helping others

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You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. John Bunyan

The efficiencies of the internet are moving us towards a more insular world and it is becoming more difficult to be mindful of helping others. According to the Dalai Lama that is our sole purpose in being here on earth – to share our compassion and help others.

The Pay It Forward movement has been particularly active on Facebook this year. You may have noticed several posts that read:

“To start this year off in a caring way I’m participating in this Pay-It-Forward initiative:

I don’t usually buy into these things, but due to a recent act of generosity I have decided to get involved, this is for real.

The first five people who comment on this status with “I’m in”, will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year – anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something home grown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!

There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy.

These five people must make the same offer in their Facebook status and distribute their own joy. Simply copy this text onto your profile (don’t share) so we can form a web of connection and kindness.

Let’s do more nice and loving things for each other in 2014, without any reason other than to make each other smile and to show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, more friendly and love-filled year.”

So while our modern world seems to be encouraging selfishness, greed and isolation – Happiness Weekly looks at some ways that you can help others this week without having an agenda of your own. Truly helping others means there’s nothing in it for you – in fact, the person you may help may never be able to repay you and that’s the ultimate aspiration in truly helping others.

 

The benefits of helping others includes:
-          Connecting you to someone in an otherwise very lonely world
-          Enhancing someone else’s life
-          Making the world a better place to live

Things you can do to help others
-          Teach them something new
-          Smile and be friendly
-          Volunteer for a charity
-          Start your own charity
-          Make a donation
-          Share your knowledge
-          Help someone do something – e.g. cross the street, change a flat tyre, get from A to B
-          Donate something you don’t use
-          Comfort someone
-          Buy food for a homeless person
-          Listen to someone
-          Do a chore for someone
-          Send a nice email
-          Share your favourite things (movie, song etc) – if you enjoyed it, someone else may too
-          Give a loved-one a massage
-          Praise someone publicly
-          Be patient with someone
-          Tutor a child
-          Make a care package for someone
-          Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter etc.
-          Offer to babysit
-          Share what you have
-          Find out what’s valuable to someone and get it for them
-          Present an opportunity to someone or make them aware of it
-          Give transparent feedback to better performance (without being too critical)
-          Introduce people to each other, help people network
-          Give someone a gift
-          Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return
-          Welcome a new neighbour by baking for them
-          Use your power to help people around you have a good day
-          Only see good in people and treat everyone accordingly

We’re all here together and the only certainty is we have one life and we’re living it now. Help others to be the best they can be where ever you can, because if everyone surrounding you is doing the same, imagine the powerful world we would live in.

Pages that helped inspire this blog:
http://www.zenhabits.net/25-ways-to-help-a-fellow-human-being-today
http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2013/05/26/10-ways-to-help-others-that-will-lead-you-to-success
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-help-someone-who-wont-help-themselves
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/outside-the-classroom/volunteering-how-helping-others-helps-you

How to catch up with yourself

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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. E. E. Cummings.

No one knows what tomorrow brings, and with life throwing up various obstacles at us, things can change in a moment. Never get too comfortable with what you have, because you never know when you may lose it. So while many of us are so busy with our day-to-day lives with as much routine as possible, such as working full time to earn money to survive, going to the gym, shopping for groceries etc., it can be difficult to catch up with yourself which will often leave you feeling forgotten, empty, or even depressed. Even if you bypass these feelings, you may display a lack of confidence, appear anxious or moody, and generally not be you usual self. It is your responsibility to look after yourself – it is one of those things that no one can do for you.

Schedule time for yourself EVERY DAY
Spend some time doing affirmations or another self-soothing activity (it could be painting your nails, reading a book, cooking a nice dinner – as long as you enjoy it) every single day. Don’t wait until you’ve lost yourself or you’re burnt out to realise you haven’t been being good to yourself.

Use the time to assess your current life
Ensure that you are on path with your own personal values and goals. Ask yourself how your day went. How could you improve tomorrow? Write down what you have learnt from the day. If you had a great day – consider what made it a good day for you and how you could repeat it every day.

Consider what you want for tomorrow
Every now and then you will need to look at the direction you are travelling. Sometimes we need to alter our path to stay on track, other times we may realise we need to make more time for ourselves and make adjustments to our current schedule that way.

Spoil yourself
Plan a day once a month, fortnight, or week, when you spoil yourself. Take yourself on a date you have always wanted to go on, see that movie no one has time to see with you, buy yourself the bunch of flowers you love or the perfume that’s slightly too expensive.

Look after yourself
Get plenty of sleep, eat properly, exercise regularly… if you’re not looking after yourself you happiness will deplete and you will not function as well. Ensure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and sunshine!

Setting time aside for yourself is as important as setting time aside to catch up with any of your friends. Make sure you find a balance in your daily life and remember to put yourself first. By putting yourself first you will start gaining a lot of self-respect which gives you confidence to go forward.

How to avoid being let down

Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed. Patricia McCormick

It’s a horrible feeling when a family member, a friend or someone we think we know disappoints us. Consider this: You’ve cleared a day of your weekend to spend it with a friend. When you call to make final arrangements that morning, they have other plans. You spend the rest of the day feeling let down.

Here’s some tips on how to avoid this situation:

Be organised – make your plan early
Make a plan of what you want to do with that friend. Call them EARLY to discuss your idea and let them know you’re looking forward to it and will confirm details the day before. I suggest making a Plan B in case your original plan falls through – anything can happen at the last minute and it may be outside anyone’s control.

Make a ‘Plan B’
Plan B is very important because it’s all about you. So if you’re crushed with disappointment, you’re not at a complete loose end. Even if it’s as simple as watching a specific movie at home by yourself, taking your dog to the park or baking a cake – make Plan B all about you and select an activity that you will still look forward to.

Communicate
Once you have your plan with your friend sorted, give them a call (the earlier the better) and let them know what you have in mind. Finish the call by telling that person you’re really looking forward to seeing them and you will call the day before to confirm final arrangements including your meeting time and place. That way, the person can pencil it in their calendar without knowing everything.

Follow up
Call your friend the day before your engagement as you promised. Finalise all details. If plans fall through at this point, then you still have time to make other plans with another friend, so don’t let it dishearten you. If plans are going ahead, then great!

Keep ‘Plan B’ in mind
Up until the moment that you see your friend, keep Plan B in mind. This means your plans and happiness aren’t dependant on someone else and outside forces. It’s keeping you in control of the situation. Also remember that your real friends enjoy your company and will also be looking forward to your plans so will be unlikely to disappoint.

In summary – to avoid disappointment:
- Expect the best but prepare for the worst
- Make sure your goals/plans are realistic
- Live to your standards and expectations, be reliable, act with integrity
- Accept that you don’t have control over someone else or outside forces
- Avoid having any expectations
- Don’t rely on anyone or anything for your happiness
- Believe in second chances – some people are just like that – accept it
- Realise that when things don’t work out straight away, it’s not the end of the world – sometimes it can work out even better than you expected.

Being happy with what you have (or how to change it!)

Happiness is self-contentedness. Aristotle

Being happy with what you have is the fastest way to be truly happy every day. Unfortunately, you may have experienced losing something or someone that was making you happy, simply by taking it for granted. Many people don’t learn from this mistake – mostly because they don’t know how and they’re not open to changing their ways.

In 1965 at President Johnson’s second inauguration, Rabbi Hyman Schachtel said: “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” Appreciating what you have makes us happy because it gives us the opportunity to step back from the detail and have a look at the overall picture. Honestly appreciating the people in your life and making time to show them your gratitude (by spending time with them or doing small things for them, even just letting them know) will make you a happier person because it gives you presence and helps you to honour your life as it is. Being thankful for these small but significant blessings is a choice, and a simple positive decision can open you to positive feedback.

In fact, research has shown that gratitude enhances your quality of life. A studied by two psychologists (Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis) showed that daily gratitude resulted in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. It also showed less cases of depression and stress, the subjects were more likely to help others, appreciated regular exercise and made greater progress towards achieving goals.

How to appreciate what you have
There is no specific method in learning to appreciate what you have – but there are some exercises you can do to start practising.
1. A gratitude journal. Write down three to ten things you appreciate each day before bed
2. A gratitude letter. Write a letter to someone who has exerted a positive influence in your life but who you haven’t had a chance to properly thank
3. A 21-day challenge. Avoid complaining, criticising or gossiping for 21 days. Experts suggest wearing a coloured wristband throughout your time to keep you constantly aware of the challenge
4. A gratitude charm bracelet. Make and wear a symbol of your gratitude every day to remind you to appreciate the things that you DO have in life
5. Enjoy the moment. The ability to appreciate what’s in front of you has nothing to do with what you actually have. It’s more about how you measure the good things in your life at any given time
6. See every day as an opportunity. Set attainable goals and look at each day as an opportunity to improve on yesterday, rather than focusing on imperfections. By focusing on improvements, you’ll naturally move toward your larger dreams and will respect the way you’re doing things
7. Take action. If something is negative, be positive. If something isn’t right, change it so it is. Be the change you seek and set an example for those around you
8. Be responsible. Be who you want to be and act accordingly. If you don’t like something about yourself, have the courage to start looking at what it is and changing it
9. Want the things you already have. Be mindful of the achievements (and even material possessions) you have obtained in life and use them to your full advantage. Make a list of your achievements and accomplishments. Take time to reflect on how far you have come to appreciate where you are now
10. Understand what makes you happy. Learn to appreciate your individuality – no one is perfect, but you can be the perfect form of yourself
11. Meditate each day on the things that make you happy. Really take the time to focus on these positive things and give thanks
12. Treat yourself regularly. You can only appreciate the people and things around you when you appreciate yourself. Remember to reward yourself (a positive action) when you reach gratitude goals
13. Be grateful for your health. Ensure you maintain peak condition by eating the right foods and participating in regular exercise.
14. Practise seeing what you have. Avoid waiting until you lose something to appreciate it! Start a list of the things you’re grateful for – it may include: family, friends, lovers, health, your environment, your senses, electricity, music, recycling, air conditioning, your happiness etc
15. Volunteer for the less fortunate. Spending time working with the homeless, sick or another disadvantaged group is a great way to put the things you do have into perspective
16. Make a scrapbook of the good things in your life. This will be a visual reminder with pictures or symbolic representations of the things you’re most grateful for
17. Watch a powerful movie such as “The Pursuit of Happyness” or “Pay it Forward” to motivate you to continue taking steps to show your appreciation of life.

Appreciating people in our life
Unfortunately, it’s often people we lose more than material things when we’re taking something for granted. And it isn’t until they’re gone that we realise our behaviour. How can you avoid this?
1. Remember the reasons that person is close to you. What qualities attracted you to them in the first place? How often do you appreciate these qualities? Remember why they’re a part of your life
2. Tell the people in your life you love them and why you think they’re special. Verbalising you’re positive feelings will reinforce them in your heart
3. Recognise the person’s current expressions of the same qualities that attracted you in the beginning. Living in the moment helps us to really see how valuable others are to us
4. Take time to respond when someone you care about is doing something that you appreciate. Send a clear message of appreciation – a smile, a comment, a helping hand, a gift, positive feedback… it can be anything
5. Spend time each day appreciating these special people in your life and listing the reasons why. This will affect your attitude towards the special people in your life – making it positive!

How to change things when you don’t appreciate them
Having the courage to change things when you’re not happy with them can take a lot of courage. Sometimes we are too comfortable with things to change them, sometimes we have good excuses for why we should stick with the way things are (often holding onto hot coals for far too long), and sometimes it’s just laziness.
1. Figure out what you need to change and be clear with yourself why it needs to change
2. Set yourself a goal to break the habit or change the situation – including a deadline
3. Make the change happen. Reward yourself when you complete the change and build a new, positive habit (or situation) in its place.

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