While our happiness should by no means be entirely dependent on others, there is certainly joy to be found by connecting with fellow human beings. The happiness that comes from interacting with others can be found in a variety of relationships and come from many different kinds of connections. This means it’s available to all of us, regardless of our circumstances.
Reaching out is beneficial to us, and others, in a few ways.
1. It is a chance to share joys: Good news gets even better when someone else is just as excited about it as we are. It seems that happiness feeds on itself, and the more of it we share, the more of it there is. Happiness is contagious, so when others share their joy, it can improve our moods, too.
2. It is a way to unload burdens: Sharing our struggles with others can help lift some of the weight off our own shoulders. Another person can be a shoulder to cry on so we don’t feel alone, a sounding board to bounce ideas off, a source of a fresh perspective and advice, or a helping hand that relieves us of some stress.
3. It is an opportunity to improve the lives of everyone involved: Actively making an effort to bring joy to other people increases their happiness as well as ours. It is satisfying to know that our actions put a smile on someone else’s face.
The great thing about these benefits is that they are found in close relationships, casual relationships, and even with complete strangers.
In close relationships: If we are lucky enough to have friends or family members with whom we can share intimate details of our lives, these people can be a source of emotional comfort. They’re our loudest cheering section when things go well for us, and they are able to figure out exactly what to say when we’re down. Bringing joy to our loved ones is often especially satisfying, since we are likely to know precisely how to make them happy. Since we care about these people so deeply, good things that happen to them can make us just as happy as our own good news.
In casual relationships: Neighbors, coworkers, classmates, etc. can also provide a place to share joys, unload burdens, and inspire happiness. When something positive happens in our lives, it’s possible we could brighten someone else’s day, and our own, by sharing it. And, by seeking information about the joys happening in the lives of those around us, we get the opportunity to find extra happiness in their good news. Not only that, sometimes the people we form casual relationships with have similar struggles to our own. For instance, the people we work with may feel equally stressed about recent company layoffs. Talking about these concerns with them might provide some relief. We can easily generate happiness for our acquaintances, and ourselves, by doing them favors or giving them compliments.
With strangers: Sometimes simply observing happiness in others can be a source of joy. Seeing a child playing or a couple holding hands can inspire a smile. If we are the ones having fun, a stranger’s day may be brightened by our smiles. And if our own days are in need of brightening, we can find similar happiness in a stranger’s delight. Strangers can also help in times of need. During natural disasters or other emergencies, people who have never met before often band together and even save each other’s lives. We can experience the satisfaction of bringing a smile to a stranger’s face by participating in charity, offering a friendly greeting, paying it forward, or engaging in any other gesture of kindness.
Even though we increase our opportunities for happiness by connecting with others, it isn’t always easy to do so.
Sometimes we experience internal and external struggles that cause us to shut out the very people who matter to us most. Sometimes we hesitate to interact with casual acquaintances because we fear that they will judge us or that we will accidentally overstep boundaries. And sometimes we are too shy or distrusting to risk being friendly to a stranger.
If we experience these kinds of difficulties, we can challenge ourselves to take baby steps toward reaching out. That could mean making small efforts to communicate more openly in our close relationships, baking a treat to share at work, or simply making eye contact and smiling as we pass someone on the street.
Reaching out to others increases the number of happy people in the world. And the more happy people there are, the more happiness there is for everyone to catch. It’s a wonderful cycle to be a part of!