Equipped With Happiness


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Inspiring Kids Who Have Made a Difference

kid changing the worldGiven the prevalence of news stories about disasters, violence, and crime, it is easy to start thinking the world is a scary, cruel place. But there’s also plenty of kindness out there, if we take the time to look. Not only that, we all have the ability to create positive change to combat the problems we see in the world.

Here are four amazing stories about compassionate kids that prove anyone, no matter how small, can make a big difference:

Nothing a Little Chocolate Bar Can’t Fix

It’s not every day that a 6-year-old publishes a book, sells 16,000 copies, and raises $750,000 dollars for medical research in the process. But that is exactly what Dylan Siegel did to help find a cure for his best friend, who has Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1b (a rare but potentially life-threatening liver condition).

To Dylan, “chocolate bar” means awesome, so that is what he decided to call his book. He started by selling 200 copies at a school event, and then held a book signing at a local Barnes and Noble. This led to appearances on several television shows, stories in magazines and newspapers, and massive success for Dylan’s efforts.

All of the money he has raised with Chocolate Bar has gone to a research fund at the University of Florida, and he hopes to eventually raise at least $1 million.[1]

Changing the World With Teddy Bears

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti inspired many remarkable acts of charity and support. One especially touching effort was made by Blare Gooch, who was 12-years-old at the time. Blare was watching a newscast of the quake’s destruction and saw a little boy in the wreckage crying. This gave him the idea to collect teddy bears to send to Haiti.

His school allowed him to announce the idea over the PA system, and pretty soon other kids began donating bears. Thanks to a little media attention, and the kindness of many other donors, Blare was able to send 25,000 bears to Haiti. He also gave another 22,000 to other nonprofits.

In the following year, he expanded his efforts and began collecting school supplies for children in Haiti, as well.[2]

Clean-Up Kid

When 7-year-old Mateo Maldonado saw bags of trash lining the streets of his community, he decided something needed to be done. So, he and his family set out to clean up the mess, collecting a total of 47 bags of litter.

But Mateo didn’t stop there. Instead, he formed a group called Mateo’s Litter Critters to continue the clean up efforts. The group meets once a month in bright green shirts, drives around to find a place in need of their services, and goes to work ridding the community of trash. [3]

In less than one year, Mateo and his Critters collected more than 200 bags of trash from parks and streets in their city of York, Pennsylvania.[4]

Blankets for a Brighter World

Charlie Coons was 11 years old when her brother returned from a trip to Egypt with stories about needy children he had seen in orphanages. Charlie wanted to do something to help, so she got some friends together to make blankets to send to the orphans.

She continued her efforts by starting an organization called HELP (Hope Encouragement Love Peace), dedicated to sending blankets to children in need. Since then, several other states have started their own chapters.

Charlie started her blanket project in 2008, and by 2011 her group had sent more than 700 blankets to children in several different countries.[5]

These kids are just a few of many people, young and old, whose acts of kindness remind us that the world really is full of happy stories and caring gestures.

 

References:

[1] “Chocolate Bar.” Accessed April 15, 2014. http://chocolatebarbook.com.

[2] Cooper, Andrea.“8 Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference.” Parenting. Accessed April 15, 2014. http://www.parenting.com/gallery/kids-who-make-difference?page=2.

[3] “Meet the Finalists for Kindest Kid.” Today. Last modified November 27, 2013. http://www.today.com/video/today/53677597/#53677597.

[4] Sawyer, Hannah. “Litter Critter Mateo a Finalist in National Kindest Kid Contest.” York City Limits. Last modified December 6, 2013. http://www.yorkblog.com/yorkcitylimits/2013/12/06/litter-critter-mateo-a-finalist-in-national-kindest-kid-contest.

[5] Flans, Robyn. “Simi Valley Eighth-Grader’s Nonprofit Takes Off.” Ventura County Star. Last modified February 15, 2011. http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/feb/15/simi-valley-eighth-graders-nonprofit-takes-off/?partner=yahoo_feeds.

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30 Simple Ways to Spread Happiness

take a smile

Today, March 20, is International Day of Happiness, a holiday dedicated to increasing happiness throughout the world.  In its honor, here are some easy ways to bring happiness to others (and hopefully make yourself feel good, too).

1. Give sincere compliments.

2. Pay-it-forward.

3. Bring donuts to work.

4. Give someone a gift “just because.”

5. Leave post-it notes with kind messages around the house.

6. Plan a nice surprise for someone.

7. Offer to cover a shift for someone who needs a day off.

8. Watch that movie your friend has been begging you to see since last year.

9. Volunteer with a charitable organization.

10. Help someone with chores.

11. Share your lunch.

12. Remind your loved ones how much you care.

13. Let someone else go first.

14. Give someone an uninterrupted chance to talk about their day.

15. Bake treats and deliver them to friends.

16. Help pick up trash in a public place.

17. Give someone a massage (preferably someone you know).

18. Be polite. 

19. Cook someone their favorite meal.

20. Take an interest in things that matter to others.

21. Leave a generous tip.

22. Host a get-together.

23. Make extra efforts to express your gratitude.

24. Call/visit/email/text friends or family just to say “hi.”

25. Tell jokes (that are appropriate for the given context).

26. Fill out a positive comment card for a business you like.

27. Treat someone when you go out together.

28. “Like” some extra Facebook posts (or the equivalent on a different site).

29. Reminisce with others about shared fond memories.

30. Smile.

Happy people tend to pass positive feelings on to others. Sometimes all it takes is one kind gesture or friendly smile to start a chain reaction of happiness. As more and more people start feeling good, they, too, will spread happiness. If enough people join in, eventually there might just be worldwide happiness epidemic.


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Be Happier By Reaching Out To Others

reach out cartoonWhile 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!