That elusive emotional state of happiness is not acquired by chasing after it. Authentic happiness arises from within, when we stop grasping after it. One of the best ways to allow happiness to arise is to enable other people’s happiness. This is how I interpret the meaning of today’s obscure holiday, “I Want To Make You Happy Day”.
In my opinion, today is a lesson in teaching compassion. The meaning of compassion is the wish for other beings to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. We can do this by empathizing with another person’s suffering without adopting it as our own. We simply need to fully desire that the other person be freed of suffering. Part of this positive desire is to take some responsibility to help the person to overcome it.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard was to not make a big deal out of sadness. Don’t make the experience of feeling sad into a solid concept or thing. This is accomplished by bringing oneself and the unhappy person into the present moment. Because much unhappiness is the result of ruminating the past and nursing resentments, gently focusing on the present moment helps take the mind away from the past.
I’ve observed that there are many ways to coax ourselves and others into the present moment.
The most obvious thing we can do is to share whatever happiness we already possess. We can bring ourselves into the present moment and express our gratitude in a positive, cheerful manner. So, if I cultivate joy within, I automatically and effortlessly spread it to you by “contagion”.
It sounds pat, but we can wish for the happiness of the other person. Sometimes it’s hard to witness other people’s happiness and success if it seems “better” than our own. This leads to jealousy in our hearts. I can be aware of budding jealousy and remind myself that envy only increases my own suffering. To knock out jealousy, all I need to do is to sincerely wish for the happiness of others. I can sincerely offer my congratulations to you when you have achieved a milestone or have been given a special gift. This is how I can increase your happiness and my own, at the same time.
If I see that you are unhappy because of something you did or experienced, I cannot make you happy by telling you what you did wrong and that you need to change your behavior. Me offering unsolicited advise will make you defensive and feel worse. If I see that you are in trouble, maybe all I need to do is to offer you a shoulder and just listen to you without judgement.
You feel happy when somebody sincerely expresses their appreciation of you. You can intuit whether a compliment is appreciation or mere flattery, so I try to refrain from trying to flatter people. If I notice something about you that I really admire, then I can inform you of my appreciation. This is especially gladdening when we offer our sincere appreciation to somebody doing good things but is not receiving acknowledgement from others. I can probably help your happiness by encouraging your efforts and showing my appreciation of them.
A big way to help others feel happiness is through acceptance not “high” expectations. We may have high expectations that we wish our friends or significant other to attain. Perhaps your values do not match my values. This state of mind creates frustration for both of us. If happiness is to be the result, I need to respect your values and accept you for who you are. If I expect to change or improve who you are, you will pick up on my expectations and you’ll feel my lack of acceptance. This is an all too common problem among friends, so we need to be aware of our urges to change people. If I accept you, you will probably feel thankful and light hearted.
One of the most concrete ways to make someone happy is through generosity. If I am able, I can offer a friend a gift or financial help. Of course, this must be judiciously offered. I can unconditionally give materially to express my appreciation of you or as a way to help you out of a difficult situation. I can share some of my precious time to help you out of a squeeze, too. This doesn’t mean I’ll be a doormat who will give in to the demands of others. However, if I share something with you, it is offered in the spirit of solidarity and genuine wishes for your happiness.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do, is to share an honest smile. It is in this spirit that I want to make you happy.