Be Happy - Part 2
Updated: Jun 3
Summary of the book The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud
In chapter 2 of Dr. Cloud’s book The Law of Happiness, he says one of the first characteristics scientific research has discovered about happy people is that they are all givers. They do things for others on a regular basis. The National Institute of Health showed that the pleasure centers of the brain actually “light up” when people give to others. We experience a physical reaction when we give. God has created us to be givers, and in so doing, we find a form of happiness when we do. These same studies show that givers have less stress, anxiety and depression in their lives. I don’t think anyone can argue about that. When we give of ourselves, we almost always feel a sense of joy. Some people have claimed they even get a physical “warm fuzzy” in their hearts.
So how do we give? As with anything in life, we need to be intentional. Giving does not just happen. Dr. Cloud states that one way to give is to “give out of faith.” By this he means that God has told us to give to others, therefore we need to be obedient and give. This does not have to be monetarily (although we need to practice this as well). When you take food to a sick friend or give up a Saturday to help a charitable organization, you are practicing a form of giving. In order to be intentional, we need to schedule our giving. Make a list of things you would like to do for others and write them down. It might be as simple as baking a cake for a co-worker’s birthday. It does not matter what it is… just give.
Dr. Cloud also encourages us to give obediently. Don’t just wait until you “feel” like giving. Sometimes the “feelings” never emerge. This is where the obedience comes in: doing what we know we should do, even when we do not feel like it. Be intentional about giving and make it a priority in your calendar.
When my son was 5, we took him with us to volunteer at our church for Angels of Light. This is an event we do every Christmas where we bring more than 5,000 homeless families to our campus to feed and clothe them. There is also a performance of our Christmas musical and every child receives a gift. My son had a special toy he carried with him everywhere, and that evening at Angels of Light was no exception. My husband and I were assigned to work with families from a shelter that had very small children about the same age as our child. It did not take long for our son to realize that the singular gift these children received that night was probably the only gift they would receive all Christmas. When the evening was over and we loaded everyone back on the bus to return to their shelter, my son also boarded the bus and began walking quietly down the aisle. He moved very slowly, pausing as he passed each seat, and looked each visitor in the eye. Almost at the end of the bus, he abruptly stopped in front of a little boy about the same age. He looked directly into this child’s eyes and said, “Would you like my toy?” His favorite toy. The little boy shook his head yes. Our son stretched out his hand and gave this little stranger, what to our son was, his most prized possession. As a parent, my heart melted. My son was grinning from ear to ear as he exited the bus and we prepared to go home. He had that “warm fuzzy” inside. For the next 30 minutes he skipped when he walked and could not stop smiling…until we got into our car. It was at this moment reality hit. He burst into tears and said, “I gave my favorite toy away!” He went from “warm fuzzy” to “oh, no, what have I done!” What a teaching moment this was for a parent.
Being obedient in our giving does not mean we will always get that “warm fuzzy,” but a characteristic of a happy person is someone that gives anyway. Just like our son, sometimes we give because we feel led to give. Sometimes we give because we are being obedient to what God calls us to do. Sometimes we give out of joy but then later have some sadness for what we feel we have lost. These feelings are normal, but the key is to just GIVE!! As mentioned before, God has physically wired our brains to experience happiness when we give. Happy people are givers! Science proves it, and God commands it.
Together with you,