I had an AHA moment today. We are currently in the midst of a teaching series at my church about happiness – the ancient wisdom of happiness, to be specific. A lot of the teaching comes from Proverbs and Psalms and the basic gist of it is that the ancients had a much better idea of what brings happiness than we do. The tie in to us moderns is that fairly recently, the scientific study of the psychology of happiness has come into its own….and the psychologists are finding that the things they’ve discovered that create happiness just happen to be the same things ancient writings recommend. Today, we looked deeper at “acts of kindness”. The basic lesson was that people who give sacrificially (and we aren’t just talking money, not at all) are just plain happier. AND that in our modern world, to really give and make a difference, we often have to join together with other people in our acts of kindness. (The environment was the example used – the things that we can do as individuals can seem totally insignificant but if we as a group start treating our environment with kindness, you can see a real difference being made). So, what was the AHA?
ICAN. Of course :-) I’ve recently changed my role with ICAN somewhat – I’ve stepped down from my job as the email list administrator and am concentrating solely on my advocacy work. And while I’m in no way minimizing how important the email list is (it’s a life line for many women) I’ve never been happier in my ICAN work than I am right now. Because I can see, as I work with the other dedicated women who are really giving sacrificially to ICAN (and the women and babies we serve) that we can make a difference, we ARE making a difference. But it wasn’t without sacrifice that I got to this point – in a very real way, giving up the email list was a personal sacrifice for me…the time I spend on line and on the phone and at meetings….that’s a sacrifice. And of course, it’s the sacrifice that brings the happiness. This isn’t just some spiritual/religious thing – this is supported by actual scientific research. Giving makes you happy, sure. But giving enough that you *notice* -- enough that something is given up in return, that’s one ticket to true happiness. It combats depression, it motivates good self care, it just does all sorts of really good stuff. Giving sacrificially with a group creates a community, a bond, a purpose that nothing else will.
The other part of the AHA was basically the same realization about my job – I’m working more hours and giving more of myself but its so completely different from my last job – I’m part of a team that’s completely committed to providing the best Veterinary care possible, to making a real difference, better than anyone else. That feels good. I suppose the combination of my job and ICAN are why, right now, I feel happier than I have in a very long time, in spite of the other things in my life that do anything but create happiness.
So – want to be happier? Want that happiness to last? Want to be in community and make a difference? It really isn’t that hard…but it does require sacrifice….money, time, energy….but the payoff is SO worth it. I’d love for ICAN to be the recipient of your sacrifice but heck, at least give it somewhere – to the homeless, to working with at-risk kids, to environmental causes, Heifer Project, Katrina relief, Habitat for Humanity, HIV/AIDs. Give up something to get back something you can’t have any other way.