“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone – other than oneself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause or to another person to love – the more human he is.” (Viktor Frankl)
The pursuit of happiness is seen, by some, as a selfish mission. But there is growing evidence that if you pursue happiness selfishly, you’re doing it wrong. Not only does generosity to a cause or a person make you feel good, it might actually make you healthier too.
Dr David Hamilton, author of Why Kindness is Good For You, says, “When you do something for someone else, your brain produces hormones: dopamine – which makes you feel happy, and gives you the feeling that what you are doing is right – and opiates, the body’s own secret stash of heroin and morphine.” Read more here.
Psychological studies show that kindness makes you happy, and happiness makes you kind, in a virtuous feedback loop that spreads ripples of positivity.
If you’re one of those poor people tasked with the tough task of nonprofit fundraising, you might want to point out to your potential donors the benefits of giving, and check out Michael Norton’s TEDx Talk on how altruism is the best way to use your money if you want to be happy.
Having been on the receiving end of so much generosity over the course of my ocean rowing career, I used to wonder how I could possibly repay all the kindness that was being bestowed on me. Then a wise friend told me that I didn’t need to – that wasn’t the point. I only had to pay it forwards. And so I did all I could to succeed, I used my blog to share my adventures with the armchair adventurers back home, and I pursued my environmental mission, surrendering myself to a cause that was greater than I was. All of these things, in turn, gave me great happiness.
And of course the right kind of giving – of time, energy, or money – has no adverse environmental impact, either.
Here’s my one-minute message about happiness, recorded shortly before I ended my time as a World Fellow at Yale last year: But Does It Make You Happy?
Speaking of happiness, I am feeling very happy right now. I am sitting in a coffee shop in Wimbledon, London, having just completed the final (I hope) draft of my forthcoming book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, due for publication on 15th October this year.
While I was in the US earlier this month, I recorded a podcast with Jim Moriarty, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation. You can check it out here on his blog.
Also earlier this month I spoke with Vinit Allen for the Spring of Sustainability series. Our conversation is available for download here: Redefining Success, for a Happier, More Sustainable Future.
Shortly before I left the US, I gave a presentation in Winsted, CT, on behalf of the Rose B. Nader Foundation “for the agitation of caring minds”. Rose was the mother of Ralph Nader, 3-time presidential candidate, and Claire Nader, who very kindly hosted me. The following morning I stopped in at the local NPR station for a one-hour conversation with John Dankosky, host of Where We Live, which is now online here: Roz Savage, The Environmentalist Who Rows Across Oceans. I also had a great conversation with Kathryn Broughton of the Litchfield County Times, who wrote it up here: Roz Savage, Around-the-World Solo Rower, Brings Save Earth Message to Winsted.
Trekity is a daily newsletter for women who love travel. I did a recent interview with them, Roz Savage’s Guide to Rowing the World’s Oceans and Saving the Environment.
Tickets are now on sale for the West Cork Literary Festival, where I will be speaking this July alongside the likes of Melvyn Bragg, Callum Roberts, Mary Robinson and Tim Severin. Regular updates on their Facebook page.