Cultivating happiness is one of the most powerful practices in the world, and it’s natural to human nature.
Aristotle tells us happiness the central purpose to human life and a great goal in itself. Confucianism holds that life’s ultimate goal, too, is individual happiness, and that this must be met through peace. In Hinduism, yogis seek ananda, which, spiritually, is the pure bliss attained through union with the Highest Self – a form of complete happiness and alignment.
What’s more, the natural pursuit of happiness goes beyond just the self. A simple example would be to ask any child what they want to be when they grow up. They’ll likely provide an answer that’s rooted in some humanitarian cause, whether that’s fighting fires, stopping crime, or exploring the depths of space in the name of all people.
According to the schools of thought listed above, this tendency is also help others represents something else that is integral to our happiness: we share a universal duty to all people, and we must practice virtue to fulfill that duty.
Understanding this, it’s clear there can be a real art to spreading joy. It’s a sincere, duty-driven practice that is built upon intent and poised for a greater good.
Why Spreading Joy is a Duty
To Immanuel Kant, those who do good because they find pleasure in other’s happiness are less morally virtuous than those motivated by a sense of obligation to help others. In other words, one should not be motivated by inclination – perhaps rooted in personal gain (happiness) – but rather by duty. This is more moral, in Kant’s view, because it is our inherent duty to obey moral law, and moral law dictates that one should always act based on motivations that, rationally, we would want or expect everyone else to follow as well.
A similar belief is found in Karma Yoga. What grows karma is not action based in the interest of personal gain, but in action based in the duty to principles like ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness).
Ponder on this, and reorient your mind if need be. Spreading joy isn’t about making you feel good – it’s about others. When you’ve come to the realization behind this point, consider the following ways to spread joy:
1. Be Bright
The way we greet others is a great first step when thinking about how we treat others. Positivity is contagious, and when prefacing a relationship, exchange, or simple morning commute acquaintanceship with a smile and kind “Hello!”, you directly influence the tone and direction of the actions that follow.
2. Be Honest
A big part of spreading joy is honesty. Honesty, at times, can feel like a balancing act – how can you be honest while ensuring you do not also hurt the other person’s feelings? – and one must be diligent and thoughtful when sharing their honestly.
While some situations are more precarious that others, the fundamental truth will always ring true: the more honest you are to another, the better trust you are able to cultivate. Trust forms a powerful bond, and what’s more, a powerful place to grow happiness.
3. Be Sincere
If practicing duty is the basis of spreading joy, then practicing sincerity is the continued act of reassuring and reinforcing that duty. With every action, even if it is difficult, remain sincere in your efforts. You should authentically want to fulfill and complete your duty to others, just as you would expect them to feel authentically compelled when helping you.
4. Be Mindful
Even when outside your mindset of duty, as you work through your own life and day, be mindful of how your actions create ripple effects. Consider others on your own path, and be mindful of their happiness. Openly communicate if you predict tension, and be graceful with amicable solutions.
5. Be Proactive
Spreading joy isn’t just about helping when one asks. Be proactive in your pursuit, and engage with others voluntarily, in advance of anyone asking. This could be as simple as volunteering your time at a shelter, or even surprising someone with a surprise when you know they are feeling down. See the opportunity and take it – don’t always wait for it to come to you.
A Joyful Life
Carefully consider the above when thinking about how you spread happiness and joy in your life. And while you shouldn’t be solely motivated by personal gain, don’t feel guilty if it makes you happy to cultivate positivity. You, like everyone, deserve happiness. Now go out there and spread it!