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Early last month, while on my morning walk, I heard the happy sound of a robin. It was such a loud, sunshine sound that I had to smile. Two blocks further into my walk I spied the bird high on a rooftop, singing cheerfully.
One bird. One happy song. One gladdened heart—mine!
What brings happiness?
As I’ve thought, over the last few weeks, about what I should write for this month’s article, the thought kept coming to my mind, “Share happiness ideas.” I guess it is because too much of our conversations are about our deteriorating society instead of uplifting talk that reminds us we have or are experiencing happy times, great and positive moments.
So now I hope you will imagine this happy bird and smile. I hope you focus on the good around you and what you can do to feel happy and bring happiness to others.
William R. Walker quoted President Thomas S. Monson as saying “We … can choose to have a positive attitude. We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. In other words, we can choose to be happy and positive, regardless of what comes our way.” (Ensign, April 2014, “Follow the Prophet.”
As we seek to be happy, we must remember that the way to real happiness is to live the gospel—strive to keep the commandments, pray for joy, participate in wholesome activities, and give meaningful service.
Often the humble acts of caring are the greatest manifestations of happiness, love, and kindness—listening, smiling, encouraging with a compliment, showing respect, and responding with patience. We bring happiness when we love and serve one another by dependably fulfilling our callings in our wards and branches, in our homes, and in our neighborhoods. Everyone needs understanding and compassion. People will not always remember the things we say or the things we do, but they will remember how we made them feel.
The following excerpt is from my book We Are Strong!
My friend and author Julie Wright wrote about those types of feelings and how the women in her community impacted her at a critical moment when they had no clue that Julie’s life was crumbling around her. She wrote, “Today is one of those I-don’t-know-how-I feel-about-today days. I have owned and operated a little store in west central Utah for fourteen years. I have counted out pennies over the counter for children, and then I’ve watched those children grow up so I could count out pennies for their children. Today it is all over. We closed our doors for the last time.
“But though I’m in the middle of all the emotions of such an event, that isn’t what this note is about. This message is about all the women in this town.”
Julie continued, “Yesterday, one of my neighbors who has a sick husband with multiple sclerosis, came over to help us get things settled. Not because she had to, not because she gained anything by it, but because she knew we needed help. And even in the midst of her own trials, she is looking to help someone else bear theirs.
“I have spent years living in the shadows of these sorts of women—the kind who show up in their pajamas on my doorstep at nearly midnight because I can’t figure out how to use a pressure canner and had started an overwhelming project in the middle of the night and needed someone to bail me out. These are the women who have helped take care of my children, made me laugh, and shown up just to tell me they care on days when I believed no one cared. These are the women who taught me about how much we need each other.”
Julie recalled, “A woman I know and admire used to have a quote in her e-mail signature line that said, ‘Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’ It’s a quote from Plato, and the words are true.
“We size each other up when we first meet. We make judgments, wrong or accurate. It doesn’t matter, the judgments get made. Yet all of us have our internal pain, our days when things aren’t great, times when we feel like we’re dying a little every single day. And sometimes it might take something small to save us—a smile, a sincere compliment, genuine friendship.”
Julie finished with the following, “The women in my little town have left their mark in my heart. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from them and hope to pass it on.”
Yes indeed! We will not always remember the things people say or do, but we will remember how those individuals made us feel.
There are many easy, unsolicited things we can do for others that might change how they feel or brighten their perspectives (and ours). Here are a few items that come to mind.
- Make someone laugh. My husband is particularly gifted in making people laugh. He always has a joke to tell.
A good, wholesome laugh is strong, happiness medicine when shared between friends. Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases stress, and increases infection-fighting antibodies.
- Pay a sincere compliment to someone, or give unsolicited encouragement to someone who needs it. Better yet, provide deserved recognition to an employee by telling his or her manager about his or her good work. Some people doubt or discredit direct praise, but what people say behind their backs is more believed. Consider leaving positive comments about your grandchildren or children on notes “accidentally” scattered around the house (theirs or yours). Or say something admirable about them when you are visiting and they are within eavesdropping range.
Another possibility is to pass on an overheard compliment. A friend did that for me—relayed a compliment. Being a writer has its ups and many downs. Speaking of myself, I write because I feel prompted I am to share the thoughts given to me. Doing so at times requires a lot of sacrifice and determination, especially since I have a large family. I count time as a precious commodity. So when my author friend Carolyn Campbell took the time to relay a message from one of my readers, it truly made my day, my week, and my month!
Carolyn wrote, “I wanted to write and tell you about a nice compliment regarding your book that I received one night this week. I was substituting in a community school writing class and a woman in the class said that the only book that had ever helped her in her difficult situation was your book, Shattered. She said she keeps it on her nightstand and refers to it regularly. She said she has had an experience that would fit in the book, but declined to say more. I am sorry that she left before I could get her name. I thought it was an amazing compliment to you and to your book. Just had to pass it along.”
As a writer, one of the best feelings in the world is knowing someone is happier, recognizing his or her great value, and/or feeling increased faith and hope because of something you have said in a talk or have written in a book or article.
- Bake a treat for a friend or neighbor. Perhaps if they are elderly or ill, mow their lawn, wash their windows, read them a book, and encourage your children to participate with you.
Even though I cannot eat grains, it makes me happy to bake for others. I love to feed friends and relatives my homemade rolls with jam.
- Call or visit someone who is sick or lonely. Offer consoling support and a listening ear.
- When you are waiting in a long line, invite the person behind you to go first, especially if the person is a mother or father with small children or an elderly individual.
- Donate towels, wash clothes, combs, toothbrushes, and/or toothpaste to a domestic violence or homeless shelter.
- Write your neighbors a note that tells them how much you appreciate living by such wonderful people. Or send a thank-you note to your child’s devoted school teacher or influential ward youth leader. Perhaps you have a Sunday School teacher who’s lessons have made a positive difference in your life. Proclaim your appreciation by giving them a thoughtful note.
- Complain less and express gratitude more. Lift yourself and others by cultivating within your heart an attitude of gratitude and being unafraid of verbally expressing it. To make your day, maintain a state of contentment, humor, compassion or calm regardless of what others choose to say or do. Refuse to let go of your good mood. We generally foster an ability to empathize with the emotions we observe in others. Before you know it, your happy, grateful attitude will lighten the mood of others and influence them to speak of positive, uplifting things.
- Engage in meaningful work. Brainstorm a creative project with a colleague. Happy people generally feel pleased and satisfied with their day when they have worked to fulfill a purpose, master a skill, do a good deed, or finish a project they are passionate about.
- Mail or e-mail an old photo to a friend, reminding him or her of a happy memory. It really helps to reminisce about good times. Doing so hits a cord about things you may have forgotten and carries good energy with it.
- It does not matter which activity you choose. Regular exercise, even simple exercise, promotes the feeling of accomplishment and well-being.
- Forgive someone of a hurt he or she has caused. Even better, choose not to be offended by the words and actions of others.
- Trust the promptings of the Holy Ghost to guide you to truth and happiness. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:37).
- When shopping, give your unused coupons to another customer in the store checkout. I did that just the other day. I was in the fabric store. After making my purchases, I had two extra forty-percent-off coupons that would expire that day. So there was no reason for me to keep them. Instead of throwing them away, I waited for the next person to approach the cashier. I put the two coupons on the counter, telling the cashier to apply them to the customer’s purchases. It was so fun to see the person’s surprised, happy expression, and it gave me another reason to smile.
Smiles are really contagious, you know. When you share a reason to smile, you give away happiness!
I found this little poem in my office files. I do not know who wrote it, but it definitely spells out the value of a smile.
A smile costs nothing, but gives much.
It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None is so rich or mighty that she can get along without it, and none is so poor but that she can be made rich by it.
A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship.
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.
Some people are too tired to give you a smile.
Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as she who has no more to give.
We all have days of sunshine and days of sadness. When we trust we are valuable as children of God, we can delight in the sunshine days and recover from the sadness days with no fear or worry about Heavenly Father forgetting us. We know He will always love each of His children perfectly, individually, and constantly. With that love and a sense of worth we are more likely to stand up for ourselves and trust our judgment to find solutions in shaping a righteous future.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, this matter of finding happiness. We only need to stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment we are in now. My daughter is good at that. This was her recent post on Facebook.
“Happiness is . . . a little boy, in his pjs, singing Primary songs to his chickens, while holding them and feeding them fresh cut herbs from the garden.”
Fay A. Klingler is the author of the best-selling book The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, I Am Strong! I Am Smart! and many other books and articles (www.fayklingler.com). She can be contacted on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FayKlingler.