Selfishness is described in the dictionary as "the quality or state of being selfish; lack of consideration for others." That would lead us to believe that selfish people are mainly concerned with their own personal gain and pleasure. I've talked about this before, but the science of happiness (yes, there really is such a thing) shows us that those are not the characteristics of happy people. In act, selfish people tend to be more unhappy. We've learned through research that happiness spreads the same way as a virus does, but it's one disease we might want to willingly and knowingly spread. "Longitudinal analysis has shown that our happiness is affected by those we are socially connected to," so says the Framingham Heart Study. That study showed that happiness spread from one individual to their friends up to three degrees of separation. It influenced the happiness of the person's friends, their friend's friends, and their friend's friends friends. (Wow! that's a lot of happiness!) Researchers concluded that happiness is largely influenced by the people (or frogs) we socialize with. This means we can become happier simply by spending time with happy people and then sharing that happiness with others.
Other research has shown that, rather than being selfish, happy people tend to be kinder and more generous. A study by researchers Isen and Levin, show us that after experiencing a positive event people were more likely to donate to charity. This effect was also evident in third-grade school children who, like their adult counter-parts, were more altruistic when they felt happy. Additional research has shown that self-care isn't selfish and actually offers the compassionate, self-caring human a greater capacity for helping and caring for others. We must be able to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others.
Now that we know that happiness doesn't make us selfish, here's how our own happiness can benefit others.. because happy people tend to do these five things.
1. Become involved in your community.
2. Be more inclusive of others.
3. Be less judgmental.
4. Be more inclined to help others.
5. Perform better at work.
These five character traits are not associated with selfish people. I've known more than a few selfish frogs and humans...and none of them would ever do any of these things. Why? Because they're too self-absorbed to even know that others even exist...except to serve them and their own blind ambitions. And I sure don't want to be that way...and I bet you don't, either! So be the change you want to see.
We've all heard that saying before. But here's a new spin on it. If our happiness "is the driver of altruistic and generous behavior, perhaps refusing to take responsibility for our own happiness is a more selfish act than trying to sustain or increase it." It's an unusual, but positive, way of looking at happiness and selfishness.
Becoming a happier human (or a happier amphibian) is in everyone's best interest. And let's face it, would it be good to live in a happier world?
I wish you all peace....and much happiness!