Happiness isn’t and shouldn’t always be the end-goal or result of everything you do in your life. It should also be a motivating factor, something that drives you to do things for others so that they can feel as happy and fulfilled as you do.
Shawn Achor wrote in one of his books that of the people he interviewed for his research, most found that spending money on items like clothing or gadgets was less fulfilling than activities and events like dinners out or concerts. In reality, helping others, by volunteering for a charitable organization or by simply doing something nice for someone you know, is a great way to create happiness in your own life as well as someone else’s.
The Journal of Happiness took a very close look at this concept. Study participants were asked to think about a recent purchase made for themselves and another one made for someone else. They were then asked to compare the two experiences. Most felt better about whatever it was they had done for someone else. When given the chance to spend a windfall, those who spent that money on doing something for someone else felt significantly better than those who bought random tangible items for themselves.
You don’t have to spend money on other people to be happy, though. A German study found that spending time on other people is just as fulfilling, if not more. As a matter of fact, some groups found that dedicating about 100 hours per year to helping others (that’s only 2 hours each week), is the perfect amount of time.
No matter how much time or money you give, you will walk away feeling fulfilled no every single time. Do what you can, when you can, within your means – without guilt or a sense of obligation. Every little bit counts these days, and what you are able to do for others will make a huge impact on the world.