Every single muscle in my body seemed to be hurting. In addition, I was made aware of muscles that I didn’t even know I had. That’s what the better part of a day spent hauling mulch and power-washing does to a body used to sitting in front of a computer most days.
And yet, I was brimming with a feeling of happiness. Why? I had just spent an entire, beautiful autumn day working the annual ‘Day of Service’ at my daughter’s school. I wasn’t happy simply because i had spent the day volunteering. It was a combination of a few key ingredients.
According to Arthur Brooks in ‘how to build a life’, most people experience happiness when three ingredients come together. The first ingredient is Fun! Was volunteering fun for me? Absolutely! The entire school, including students, faculty and staff was out and about doing various service projects. It was fun watching them in action, and it was even more fun working alongside my wife as we got covered in dirt and grime and water fairly quickly. And who doesn’t have fun with power tools that make work easy?
Do you remember the last time you had Fun? When was it, and what were you doing?
The second ingredient is Satisfaction. Is volunteering satisfactory? Absolutely yes! After a full week of not-so-satisfying intellectual gymnastics at ‘work’, a day of manual labor was immensely satisfying. It was a sort of ‘deep cleansing’ that the brainbox appreciated greatly by the middle of the day. By the end of the day, my brain was so deeply flushed that I had forgotten how to spell my name. Not really, but you get the idea. I was thoroughly satisfied with the results of the work done, even though I knew that it would have to be done again in a year. The satisfying feeling would pass, like water through a colander, and yet, it felt good to experience it in the moment. It was like a cup of good tea!
When was the last time you felt deeply satisfied? What brought on the feeling?
The third ingredient for happiness is Purpose. We often ask the big questions like what is our life’s purpose, why are we here and so on. These are good questions to ask because they give us a framework with which to align our actions. I hadn’t imagined that a day of manual labor would feed my sense of purpose, but the fact that there were so many other folks on campus working together towards a common goal, made it so. At the end of the day, it surely felt like I had done something meaningful and purposeful. The years of black grime on the concrete walls of the auditorium had been forever banished!
The combination of the three ingredients of fun, satisfaction and purpose created happiness. I think there was a fourth ingredient that was the cherry on the happiness cake – connection. I got to see and chat with so many teachers from previous grades, staff I hadn’t seen in a while due to the pandemic, and more. I heard wedding stories, birth and death stories, college graduation stories, and much more. It all felt good and my heart was smiling by the end of the day.
I didn’t go to seek happiness today at the ‘Day of Service’. It went thinking I would ‘serve’ in the hours before lunch and then ‘work work’ after lunch. I ended up staying the whole day because I could feel my happiness tank getting filled, even as my physical tank was getting drained. The result? One of the happiest days of the week.
I encourage you to reflect on your happiness creators. When is the last time you were having fun, feeling satisfied, doing something purposeful and creating connections, all at the same time? Was that when you felt you were face-to-face with happiness? Or are there other, different ingredients that create happiness for you?
P. S. Join us for our weekly community gathering, Sunday Sep 26 at 9amET / 630pm India in #spiritchat on Twitter. Share your keys to happiness with us. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK