Have you ever noticed that feeling—toward the end of the year when we’re all caught up in Thanksgiving, Christmas, family, food, and reflection—the world just seems a bit warmer, even in spite of the cold?
Strangers take just a bit more time to wish each other a “Happy holidays!” and neighbors leave treats on one another’s doorstep, expecting nothing in return. And though the busyness of the season may inspire many of us to sing “It’s the most stressful time of the year!” rather than the “most wonderful,” everybody seems to smile a little more and to care a little more.
It was a true stroke of genius when someone decided that the season of thanksgiving belonged directly before the season of giving on the calendar. After all, when we’re grateful, don’t we feel like paying it forward, at least in some small way? When we take the time to see the good in our lives, even in the midst of hardship, does it not inspire the acts of kindness that often follow in subsequent weeks and in subsequent interactions?
I am not an expert on happiness. I don’t have a degree in positive psychology, a guaranteed 10-Step Path to Lasting Joy program, or an exercise routine that’ll send those endorphins racing in five minutes or less. What I do have, though, is a couple decades’ worth of pursuing happiness under my belt.
By no means am I saying I have it all figured out already, but I have observed something time and time again that I think will be meaningful for many of you, as it has been for me. It’s this: being grateful for what we have cultivates a giving heart, and it’s in the giving of time, resources, service, and love, that the most enduring kind of happiness is found.
You see, life is full of stress and trouble. It can be really, really tough. But in those times when I’ve taken a minute to run a neighbor to the grocery store, give a friend a ride from the airport, or even tidy up the living room while my wife was out of the house—those are the times when my heart has been fullest, when I’ve felt most productive in spite of my growing to-do-list.
So if you find yourself in a slump, or if things feel uncertain or overwhelming, don’t worry so much about finding yourself. Instead, take a moment to serve someone else. It’s in the act of giving of ourselves, after all, that we grow, making more of ourselves to find.
Daniel Moster is an office/IT intern at Noetic Psychiatry, who also occasionally moonlights as a writer, mandolin player, and student of Family Life at Brigham Young University. In his free time, he enjoys collecting hobbies, eating sugary foods, and spending time with his beautiful wife and son.