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Help Others, Help Yourself

SECRET TO HAPPINESS? Helping others may be the secret to a happy, healthy life. GETTY IMAGES

Science shows that helping others can make you feel good too. The key is to find the approach that works for you.

There’s a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

For thousands of years, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others. Scientific research provides compelling data to support the idea that helping others may be the secret to living a life that is happier, healthier, and more productive and meaningful.

Giving can feel great. And as we learn early, it’s better to give than to receive. Plus, the more you give, the more you stand to gain purpose, meaning, and happiness. Follow these tips:

1. Find your passion. It’s not how much you give. It’s how much love you put into giving. You might care about one cause more than others, and that’s okay. Support the cause that feels right for you.

2. Give your time. The gift of time is often more valuable to the receiver, and more satisfying to the giver, than the gift of money. We don’t all have the same amount of money, but we all have time. We can give some of this time to help others—whether a few hours each day, or a few days each year.

3. Give to groups with clear goals. Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, in Massachusetts, says that “giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money [or service] leads to more happiness.”

4. Don’t forget about yourself. “Selfless giving . . . easily becomes overwhelming,” psychologist Adam Grant says. He advises giving to others, but keeping your personal and emotional needs in mind. You matter too!

5. Be proactive. Set aside time to serve your community. Think about your options, and find the cause and type of service that best match your values.