Updated: Jan 12
Is it possible that by being more thoughtful to the people in your life you are giving yourself a happiness boost? Research says "yes"!
In 2007, researcher Sonja Lyumbomirsky, in her book The Hour of Happiness showed that 40% of our happiness comes from intentional acts that better our well-being and ensure happiness. This is in contrast to the 60% of happiness that is either genetic or environmental. We can't change genetics (not yet anyway), and we can't always change our environment - so why not focus on making intentional choices for actions that will increase our happiness?
Science has also linked longevity to happiness. So basically, happiness and longevity can be increased by simply having a more thoughtful and intentional approach to life.
In the TED Ed talk below, Michael Norton discusses an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we give gifts (money in this case) to others.
When we are thoughtful to others, a part of our brain called the striatum is activated. Yes, scientists have literally found the feeling of happiness in our brains. This is one of the parts of the brain that shows activity when we find things rewarding. When you do a kind or thoughtful act for others and get that warm feeling inside - the striatum is the likely biological reason for that feeling. You may not have access to an MRI to see if your striatum is lighting up when you are thoughtful, but that warm feeling inside is a good indicator.
While science is beginning to uncover the biological nature of giving and feeling good, other research is indicating that more targeted affection to family and our romantic relationships may be even more effective for generating happiness. Especially because of the reciprocal nature of giving
The love you take is equal to the love you make.
Although giving and thoughtfulness should be without expectation - you tend to get back what you give out.
Even with the most basic actions, we find that being kind to others gives us benefits.
-Smiling at a baby, causes her to smile back.
-A wave to someone else prompts them to return the gesture
-Tucking in your child at night, creates the feeling of a parental bond and love
-Checking in on an elderly family member is the right thing to do and feels good.
-Spending time with family can be a huge happiness boost (most the time)
How do you respond when someone is kind to you? Do you feel a strong desire to return the gesture? This kind of feedback loop where people respond positively to you and you respond similarly can be the place where our closest relationships can thrive.
With rare exceptions, everyone I meet and talk to wants to be happier. In talking to hundreds of men about the you:MoreThoughtful service, overwhelmingly they would all be more thoughtful if it was easy.
Thoughtfulness and kindness, especially unmerited, have a profound effect on happiness, well-being, positive self-image, and outlook. So it does appear that being thoughtful does make you happier - so get out there do a few kind acts for your closest people.
The world will be a little better because of it, and you get a nice return on the investment: Happiness.