Today’s topic is about positive affect, and how spreading happiness out into the world is a surefire recipe for increasing the happiness in your life. And I’m going to have help from the “The World’s Happiest Man,” a Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard.
Like myself, Matt is a big proponent of meditation. He was also dubbed the “World’s Happiest Man” after a University of Wisconsin neuroscience study determined that his brain produces the highest levels of gamma waves ever reported. (Note: brain gamma waves are associated with happiness.)
Matt is an expert on the subject of spreading happiness, and wrote a book called “Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.”
What does he have to say about the importance of sending positivity out into the world?
In a TED Talk, Matt explored the notion of humanity’s need to do good.
“Everyone knows deep within that an act of selfless generosity, from a distance and without anyone knowing anything about it–we could save a child’s life, or make someone happy–we don’t need the recognition. We don’t need any gratitude. Just the mere fact of doing that fills such a sense of adequation with our deep nature. And we would like to be like that all the time.” – Matthieu Ricard
What Matt is describing–this altruism that puts out good deeds and thoughts into the world–is positive affect, and it’s a surprisingly effective way of making yourself happy.
Altruism can take many forms, and often involves doing good deeds for others via charity or volunteering. These acts can sometimes yield gratitude–heartfelt thank yous and gestures of appreciation that certainly feel good to receive.
But further down the spectrum of doing good for others–yet no less important–is positive affect.
For an example of positive affect, imagine two servers in a nice restaurant–one who’s happy and radiates positivity, and one who seems exasperated, disinterested, and clearly doesn’t want to be there. Whenever you signal to the positive server that you need something, the server smiles, says, “Yes! Right away!” and is eager to make you happy.
The other server, however, grumbles. You accidentally dropped your fork on the floor and need another? He’ll get you one… begrudgingly. Want more water? He’ll refill your glass, but sigh and roll his eyes. Want to see the dessert list? Forget about it!
Clearly, the first server is exhibiting a positive affect, with good energy emanating from within; meanwhile, the second server is the exact opposite, sending out negative vibes. Which one would make for a better dining experience for you?
Which one would make you–and really, everyone–happier?
On the flipside of that equation, if you had to put yourself in the shoes of the two servers, would you be happier exhibiting positive affect? Or would you be happier being a grouch to everyone?
The answer is a no-brainer, and the reason why positive affect is so important for personal happiness!
“Reality is interdependent, and the supreme mental state–the most satisfactory emotion of all–is altruistic love, kindness, compassion, benevolence.” – Matthieu Ricard
You may not get the same kinds of heartfelt thank yous and gestures of appreciation with a positive affect than you would with overt acts of altruism, but overt acts of altruism–like charity and volunteering–aren’t always something you can devote a lot of time to.
Positive affect, however, is something you can switch on and leave on–like a big, electric neon sign shaped like a smiley face over our heads.
On top of that, because you’re doing it with no expectation of accolades, bringing positivity into the world creates a very non-selfish form of happiness.
“Selfish happiness does not work. It’s bound to fail miserably.” – Matthieu Ricard
Want to make your world a more positive place? Then spread some positivity out into the world and it will come back to you!
Keep living Bold!
P.S. PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success is a complete system for planning your life to get what you want, and has been a top seller in three categories: “Motivational Growth & Spirituality”, “Personal Success & Spirituality” and “Management Skills”. I hope you check it out if you have not purchased a copy.