Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Raise Your Happiness Barometer With This One Scientifically Proven Action

When we moved to Washington D C  in August 2001, we rented a house and inherited a party. 

The home owners had hosted this event every September/October on one of the Jewish holidays.

You did not misread that party piece. 

I know it sounds strange, but for years, friends of the owners had been coming to celebrate and they jokingly told us, that even though we were now living in the house, they thought they would come anyway. Many of them had welcomed us when we first arrived and entertained us in the first few weeks of our new American lives. Some we had never met!

Not to be caught out, and certainly up for the challenge, my mom (mum), who was visiting from the UK at the time, and I threw together some strong drinks and tasty snacks. The party guests concluded at the end of a successful evening, that they were on to a good thing. 

Fast forward 13 years and a move to a different house in the same neighborhood and we are still hosting the yearly party, with much of the original guest list intact! As I was preparing for the influx this year, there were a few very important questions, guests asked me repeatedly, prior to the evening. (Most were food related.)

1. Would there be gravalax? - Yes. I had made it in advance.
2. Was I making that Scottish oat, whiskey, cream concoction? -Yes.
3. Mushroom bourekkas? - Yes. My mom had  already made them.  
4. Would my mom be there for the party - No. Not this year. She had been visiting us, but left a week earlier than usual.

Question 4 was the most oft repeated and the one to which the answer was received most disappointingly. My mom has become a beloved fixture at this event, joining us most years for the holidays, helping me cook and prepare and talking with our friends, who love chatting with her. 

I was very touched by everyone's interest and concern about my mom and thought she would like to know.

 On Sunday morning I called her to thank her for all her help and to pass on the messages from our friends. She was delighted and as an unexpected  bonus, I got a tremendous buzz giving her this feedback and hearing her joy. ( Pun intended. Her name is Joy)

This bonus buzz was something I forgot about until I watched a movie short created by Soul Pancake on their YouTube channel, about what makes you happy.

Based on the results of a 2005 cognitive research paper by researchers at U Penn and U Michigan, the directors of the mini-movie set out to confirm for themselves what the psychologists had discovered. That YOUR own happiness is boosted by how much gratitude YOU show to someone else.

 In the movie, the film makers recreated part of the experiment related to gratitude and happiness. 

 A handful* of volunteers were told they would be asked to complete a happiness survey, write a summary about someone who was very important to them or had influenced them and then complete a different, second survey. Details were sparse.

What they were unprepared for, was that after writing a letter to their hero,  they were handed phones and asked to call those same people and read their statements to them, on the spot. 

One called his mom. One, her sister in the UK at 4.00am. One a friend with health issues. They were filmed making the calls and hearing the wonderful responses. 

Then the volunteers were asked to fill out a second survey rating their own happiness. 
The results were fascinating. 
"The volunteers who did not get through to the person had an increase in happiness of between 2 and 4%."

"The volunteers who were able to personally express their gratitude, rather than leave a voicemail or unable to call, had an increase in their happiness rating of between 4 and 19%."

So expressing your gratitude and hearing the response, can make YOU happier.

The narrator concluded:

"The biggest jump in happiness was the least happy person at the beginning of the experiment. So if you are having a difficult time,  calling someone to express your appreciation may cheer you up more than you know."

 That might not be something you would think of at a challenging time. What a wonderful and unexpected  way to improve your spirits as well as the person you appreciate. The psychologists in the clinical study found people who had made the gratitude calls,  were happier up to a month later. Repetition of the exercise reignited the happy feeling of the caller.

 Gratitude with latitude-the effects are long lasting!

Imagine what a genuine gratitude call once a month could do for your own well being.  

So thank you mom and my enquiring friends for giving me an opportunity to say thank you. It made my day too.

I'm  off to make another thank you call.

Now who are you going to thank, to make their day and YOU happier? Let me know what you thought of the movie and who you called. Leave me a comment below.

You can see the movie here. It will warm your heart.


* I know it was a very small sample, but you get the gist for a 'warm your heart' blog rather than Scientific American....

You might also enjoy these heartwarming stories....

Four Girls and a Bar of Chocolate
Parent Alert: Your Mother Was Right
The Astonishing Truth About Your Potential
What a Crisis Can Teach Us About Celebrating

 Please email me at gilly@bringingbooksofcomfort.org or leave a comment on this post below. I'd love to have your feedback. 
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  1. It's along the lines of 'it's as much fun to give as to receive' and I totally agree.

  2. ....and scientifically proven and costs just the price of the call.

  3. and so in that spirit and (meant genuinely); Thank you both for your amazing blogs that present important and significant ideas in contexts that are approachable and authentic. Keep Calm and Carry on Writing!!!!!

  4. Gilly, I just read the comment you left on my blog, and you made me feel really happy too. I love reading your blog....you're down to earth, and can very often make me think..I am grateful to know you. I just wish you're husband wasn't a TN sufferer.

    1. The feeling's mutual Liz. I wish TN was not part of yours or our lives. However meeting you has been a tremendous bonus and a great pleasure.
      We just need to keep up the fight for a cure.