My perspective on the idea of happiness has changed substantially in the last few months — particularly since moving to San Francisco. I want to explain what I have learned recently both to share, to explore, and encode the topic for myself.
The title of this article is because I have recently turned 24 years of age and I doubt these will be my last words on the topic.
Happiness is being as generous as possible, after taking care of yourself.
It might be obvious to some people, but I have found that human relationships and connection are more satisfying and bring more happiness than any material good or time spent alone. Of course, there are many exceptions, but I consider this to be the rule.
On top of connection is generosity. Being as generous as possible to everyone around me breeds generosity toward myself and it enables me to move past selfish feelings like annoyance or anger toward others.
Generosity is not just material gifts. When I say generosity, I mean with actions, words, and thoughts. Forgiveness is a key part of generosity, for example.
Why take care of yourself?
A common argument against generosity is taking it to an extreme — if I give everything I have, I will be left with nothing or perhaps someone will take advantage of me.
This, honestly, is a valid concern. Generosity is not about giving everything you have to everyone else. You must be generous toward yourself, as well. Sometimes — often — that can mean putting yourself first.
You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. If you give everything you have, not only will you have nothing left for yourself, but you will not be able to continue giving to others.
A really simple example of focusing on yourself is making a higher salary. If you give away 10% of your income to charity, and you receive a $10,000 raise, you are now contributing an extra $1,000. Focusing on yourself can help others, as well.
Finding a balance between yourself and others is part of the process and it is different for everyone. Either way, I think more generosity leads to more happiness — as long as you take care of yourself.
Why do I think this?
It is a matter of personal experience. I think I grew up being rather self-centered. I cared more about myself than others. I cared more about solitude than relationships. I was judgmental, selfish, and unkind.
I have been reading a lot of books lately about the progress of humanity, happiness, and poverty and these have changed my perspective on many of these topics.
I have taken part in vegan activism recently, and realized it was not just stiff, boring, or disciplined selflessness.
I have also started to meditate and I have actually just recently passed 100 days in a row. This has had an enormous impact and I recommend it to anyone.
I use the app Headspace. The Generosity pack was my favorite so far =)
I also read two phenomenal articles this week on relationships. I highly encourage anyone to read them:
Why Most People Will Never Have Great Relationships (I don't love this title, but it is a great read)
As a finishing note, I would like to point out that this article is heavily biased by my own experience and I intentionally did not elaborate on how to implement generosity or self-care, because it is up to you!