5 Simple Things You Can Do Today to Spread Happiness

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Spread happiness to others every day

How often do you consciously try to be selfless and focus on someone else’s happiness? It’s difficult to remember that the entire world does not revolve around us and that we need to give and put into the world just as much as we expect to receive. Our mission to find the answers for ourselves to learn how to be happy makes us blind to others’ own feelings. Happiness is the universal currency and you can choose how you spend it.

Great Examples of Caring for Others’ Happiness

The other day, someone mentioned on a blog post that she noticed her husband was frustrated. Their washing machine had broken and this issue was causing unneeded stress to her husband as he tried to figure out how to fix it or purchase a new one.

Understanding the source of the stress, she selflessly took it upon herself to purchase a new machine without her husband’s knowledge. She didn’t do this because she was frustrated, but because she noticed that it was causing her husband’s happiness to be negatively affected.

Another example of selflessness came from today. I was at a Google event this afternoon and afterwards we all did the usual networking and exchanging of business cards.

I was talking to this man and he somehow went off-topic as he began talking about very random things such as dial-up internet and the technicalities of the past connections. I could tell he enjoyed talking and so I stood there smiling and nodding being sure to actively listen.

Truthfully, I have to admit I found the conversation to be stale because he spoke at a slow rate, but I didn’t want to be rude or to cut him off because I knew that would upset him.

What harm is it causing me to listen to this man talk about things he clearly enjoys? I treated him as if he was a guest in my own home because he was genuinely happy to be sharing with me. I made the conscious decision to favor his happiness and we parted ways with a “Great to meet you!”

You don’t have to go out and perform exactly the same tasks as the examples above, but there are several smaller ways to make someone else’s day just a bit better and they won’t cost you a thing.

1. Strike Up Random Conversation With a Stranger

My story that I used as an example wasn’t a random conversation, it was a networking event with someone who I happened to have not known. Regardless, most people love conversing and it’s even better if they get to see a new face. In public settings, it seems like there is absolutely zero conversation among strangers. It’s dead silent.

People are glancing at their phones, the walls, the ceiling, ANYTHING to avoid eye contact with a stranger who may, God forbid, say hello.

Why? They do this because they’re used to not talking to people they don’t know. What I’ve learned through the years actually differs from what I originally thought.

I used to think people hated random conversations. Why else would they avoid it?

Actually, that’s the problem right there.

They’re thinking the same thing as everyone else. Their inner dialogue is telling them not to because others will find them bothersome.

Guess what? People LOVE talking to strangers. The moment I look at a stranger and smile, their eyes light up. Then once they get started talking, they never want to stop even as we part ways. You can argue that it’s not exactly selfless to talk to others, but it is if you do it simply because you know they love it. Spread happiness with your interactions.

2. Greet Everyone (With a Smile!)

If you don’t feel like you have the courage to talk to a stranger, simply smile and greet them with a wave or a simple hello.
Do you have any idea how many people pass by others without receiving a single hello each and every day? I’m willing to bet that not a single person even gave them eye contact either (unless they were paid to.)

Receiving a simple sign of acknowledgement from a stranger can easily brighten their day because most of the time, people feel unnoticed.

I know this for a fact because I see the sadness in people’s faces as they walk alone. All it takes is a simple hi and for some reason, it seems like they’ve just received the greatest news.

You know how this makes me feel in return? Like a superhero whose superpower enable global spreading of happiness wherever I go.

3. Listen More Than You Talk

This one doesn’t require a random stranger because this goes for anyone. Even though you should be practicing this anyways, it is sometimes hard to remember that others want to be heard.

I talk about active listening a lot, but it’s powerful. There are a lot of people out there who are used to just sitting there waiting to speak, but the other individual is just dominating the conversation while leaving no room for a reply.

When you talk to others, listen at least 60% of the time (the more the better.)

The people in your life will appreciate it and you can brighten their day, everyday.

4. Genuinely Compliment Someone

Like number two, you don’t necessarily have to strike up a conversation at all. Just notice something about someone and genuinely compliment it.

Perhaps they’re wearing something interest such as bright green pants and you happen to like it. Let them know! People love compliments about things they put the effort into doing. Sure, it’s great to compliment their big, blue eyes, but they didn’t make the decision to have those eyes today!

If you notice someone doing something amazing or you admire the way in which they go about a task, let them know you think that they are doing an amazing job. Compliments go a long way and it can only spread some happiness to those sharing the Earth with you.

5. Ask Someone If They Need Help

For some reason, society has bred people to be afraid of reaching out for support. Everyone is supposed to be some sort of self-reliant superhero who can carry the weight on his or her shoulders.

If you have even the slightest suspicion that someone may be feeling down or is struggling, just ask for help. They’ll most likely tell you everything is fine, but they will feel better just because you showed you care. It’s powerful and you can’t ignore it. People want to feel like they’re there.

How do you go about spreading happiness every day? What small things have you done in the past that you can see through their eyes as having a huge significance? Feel free to share in the comments and spread some positivity.

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway. After landing his dream job with Empire Flippers, he dropped out of college and began living a location independent lifestyle (still always drawn to coffee shops though.) Don't worry, he still publishes every Monday and hasn't missed a single week since starting this site in January 2013.

Latest posts by Vincent Nguyen (see all)

41 responses to 5 Simple Things You Can Do Today to Spread Happiness

  1. Hey Vincent,

    Love the first point. It’s something I’m really, really scared of; but it’s amazing. There is literally nothing better than the feeling you get after you’ve talked to a human being you’ve never met before, even if it’s just a simple ‘hello, how are you’ – it can really make someone’s day.

    Smiles are awesome as well :)

    • Hi Sam,

      It makes both people’s days actually! Think of it this way. It’s a great way to practice your social skills and gets your comfortable with talking to people you don’t necessarily know on a personal basis. This translates well to other aspects of your life where you’ll need to network. It’s like leveling up. :)

  2. I’m with Sam on this one. Striking up conversations with total strangers is something I’ll have to work on. But it seems like a great skill to have. Thanks for the tip.

    Cheers!

    • Hi, Trevor. Although I have not written an article on here or anywhere else about the art of conversing with strangers, Lifehack.org will be publishing my guest post on how to always leave a great first impression that may come in handy. I’ll forward it your way on Twitter once it’s up. :)

  3. A sincere compliment can be remembered and appreciated for years. I remember one that was given to me by a friend 15 years ago to thank me for a simple task. He was only 19, but someone had raised him to be appreciative of others. You are correct about the power of compliments, Vincent, they can go a very long way.

    • Wow! It must have had left quite the impression on you during the moment to have stuck with you for 15 years! That’s amazing! I know I only wrote about making someone’s day, but compliments are powerful enough to stick with someone for a lifetime. I’m glad you still remember the compliment of a friend’s after so long. Thanks for sharing, Bob.

  4. The “active listening” piece is huge. I truly think it is the hardest one to do. Congrats on writing for Lifehack!!

  5. Hi Vincent,
    Loved the post.
    Especially your first comment. I’ve always talked with strangers at practically every chance I’ve ever had. I look for opportunities to talk with strangers…

    There have been times when I’ve been able to provide life changing referrals to a stranger. There have been times we fond a common interest or connection. There have been times that a quick conversation with a stranger led to a friendship becuase of common interests.

    A moment ago a friend who saw me sitting here stopped by to say hello. I met him because I struck up a conversation with his mom about her grandchild. My friend is the dad… She connected us and we’ve been friends since.

    I could go on and on about my personal experiences with your first piece of advice but don’t have the strength to type so much.

    Keep up the good work!

    Matthew

    • Hi Matt,

      Glad to hear it clicked with you. It’s a great way to expand your social circle (if that’s what you want,) or simply get comfortable with interaction.

      You never know what a random conversation is going to lead to because you never know who you’re talking to! It’s pretty crazy and is almost like a gamble. Maybe you’ll meet a few less than normal people, so what? You’ll have stories to tell for a long time.

      That’s pretty cool that you connected through another person. A good example of why you should never discriminate and talk to EVERYONE (assuming they don’t mind.)

      Thanks for reading!

  6. I love the point of this article

  7. Awesome point Vincent! Growing up I was always shy around strangers. I felt like the ‘unnoticed’ that you mentioned. I’ve found that just smiling is super effective. Not only does it open me up to people I used to be nervous around, but I feel more confident and outgoing. Thank you for reminding me why this is such an important practice. Cheers, -J.

    • Yup! Not only do you feel more confident, but people pick up on that when they see you and will think of you as a confident person regardless of whether or not that was your intention! Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

  8. I love all your points, Vincent. I am SO much better at listening than I used to be. I am a high-energy person and used to get so excited when talking with others. Sometimes I still do, but I tell myself to listen, listen, listen. Meditation and freeing up more of my time to do things I love has helped me to become a better listener. I find that others are so interesting, and I’m sick of hearing myself.

    I am a very smiley person. I’m sure people in the coffee shop think I’m a bit tapped, but I love to strike up conversations while at the coffee urns. Today I tried a genuine compliment. I told a man, “Wow. I love those green sweats.” (I really wanted a pair myself as they looked so comfy!) He said, “They’re scrubs.” I said, “Oh, that’s great!” So I might have to get some scrubs soon. Houston is very hot, and they look so lightweight.

    Well, another delightful post from you, Vincent. Thank you. This is a fine start to my spring break!

    • I’m exactly like that, Tammy! I have to remind myself a lot of times to tone it down too because I get carried away and hog all of the words. Just like you, I’ve had to practice improving and now I’m much better at listening. Glad to see we have that in common. :)

      He must have felt confident in his attire that day and most likely for the future when he grabs for that pair now! Awesome!

      Thanks for reading, Tammy! Now I can expect to see a comment by CJ to follow under I’m sure. :)

  9. Vincent! You offer such a nice variety of ideas that it would be difficult not to find one that is easy for everyone to use. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are all very easy for my personality type. 1 and 5 are sometimes a bit of a stretch for an introvert, but not to worry I can spread a boatload of happiness with 2, 3 and 4 and throw in a rare 1 and 5. How’s that sound?

    A fun to red post and most pleasant writing style/voice.

    • I knew I’d find you underneath Tammy’s comment! Hey, I’m an introvert too whether you believe it or not! It takes practice and your heart pace may be increasing every second, but you can do it! That actually sounds great. Spread smiles everywhere, share compliments equally as much, and keep on listening with a smile too!

      Thanks, CJ!

  10. Hey Vincent. I recently stumbled upon your blog and I love everything so far! I’m not a naturally outgoing person, but I’m trying my best to spread happiness to others….especially now that I’m about to become a teacher.

    The one thing that I constantly try to remember to do is smile. I know how good a smile from a stranger can me make feel.

    Keep up the good work on your blog. I look forward to reading more.

    • Hi, Alex! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re okay with me calling you Alex. :)

      It’s okay, I’m not a naturally outgoing person either. It’s something I’ve got to consciously practice (without being fake, of course.) Awesome! Teaching is a scary job that I wouldn’t have the right mindset to go into. What subject are you teaching?

      Yup, smiles are such a crazy jedi mind trick. I won’t lie, I practice my smile in the mirror every now and then to make sure it’s approachable and friendly. I don’t want to scare people off!

      Thanks, Alex. Hope to see you around here more.

      • It’s totally okay to call me Alex That’s what I normally go by.

        I have to practice being outgoing too, but it definitely gets easier the more I do it. I want to be able to engage my students and make positive connections with them. I’m actually teaching physical education and health because I have a passion for wellness and I wish to teach that to others. I am excited to start student teaching in a couple of weeks!

        I plan on keeping up with your site. Have a good day!

        • Whoa, in a couple of weeks? That’s great! keep me updated on how it goes. :) I’d love to hear about your first day of class.

          Great! I should expect to see you a lot then! You too, Alex.

  11. Hey Vincent, you got a thriving audience here!

    Your article strikes into happiness as viral when given out with warmth in the context of human relationships. That’s beautiful. In an age where everyone is too busy checking his social media, no one seems to be interested talking face to face- hence the loss of genuine human relations. Indeed, we must go to the basics and start being our human nature.

    • Thanks, Rob! I’m quite surprised at how fast this site has grown and its current progress.

      Exactly that! I didn’t want to touch upon that too much because it’s very well-known and often talked about already, but it is very true that much “conversation” is handled through electronics nowadays. It’s important to have offline contact with other people even if it means connecting with people you don’t know or will even see again.

      Going back to Tammy’s story. How often does someone receive a compliment? It’s great to get compliments in-person because it means more than 50 Facebook likes or Google +1s.

  12. It can sometimes be hard, but when you try it and find out how great it is to be slightly selfless, you’re hooked. I love doing those kinds of things, although I’ve still got a lot of shell-breaking to do.

    In principle, I agree with the active listening, in fact I rarely talk about myself, I’m more interested to learn about others and their experiences. However, I’ve found that listening too much can cause in imbalance, they might start to feel uncomfortable because they’ve realised that they’re talking to much. But like you suggest, I reckon 60% is a good figure, you learn a lot, but you’re not stood there with your mouth shut.

    Wonderful post, Vincent! I’m new to this blog, and I look forward to potentially networking with you in the future :)

    • Hi, Nick! Thanks for stopping by. I was on your site and was impressed to see someone younger than me tackling personal development. That’s great!

      In my experience, I find that most people don’t even notice that they’re the ones talking most of the time. Like I said, people LOVE it so they are more than happy to do so. Usually it’s people who are more conscious of others (a good thing) that realize this and begin to ask questions in return.

      Thanks for checking it out, Nick! Feel free to get in touch anytime. I have the contact form linked at the top (and bottom) of each page, Google+, Twitter, all of that good stuff. See you around!

  13. I totally agree with you that spreading happiness can be as simple as that. Small things, such as sincere smiles and other signs of acknowledgement, can make a big difference. Thanks for sharing your positive outlook

  14. You are unusually wise for your age. Keep it up :)

  15. Vincent,
    Great post as well.
    Your words are powerful, you actually convinced me to try and talk or smile to strangers in the street … in the hope to see their face brighten and their eyes sparkling. You’re so right about feeling unnoticed. When I am with negative thoughts, I often feel unnoticed… and yet, I’m sure that a simple smile from a stranger would actually totally shift my mood…. So rather than waiting for someone to smile to me, from now on, I’ll try to smile to strangers – especially in the subway where people usually wear their negative face.

    About asking someone if they need help, that’s a tricky one. People will often feel ashamed to receive help so as you said, they will just nod and say “i’m fine”. Here the point would be to get them to accept our help. I found out that the right thing to do is not asking them “Can I help you?” but telling them you are willing to listen to them and that they might speak or ask you anything, more like “What can I do for you?”…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are young but it seems you have gone through several lives before blogging :)

    • I’m also willing to bet a smile from a stranger can lift you up. Smiles are like a signal to us that there are people that see us and empathize that we’re all living through life with the same struggles that others are going through.

      I like your point, people are less willing to open up if you ask if they need help but if you manage to phrase it right than chances are there is something you can do.

      Thank you, Nicolas! :)

  16. “they’re used to not talking to people” – Absolutely. Instead of feeling self-conscious about their reaction, just remember that most people are shocked that a stranger will talk to them out of the blue.

    There is also a TEDx talk about how money can buy happiness if it is given to others. So I might add, give back to the community / family / anyone who needs it

    • Worst case scenario, maybe they look at you funny and they’ve got a story to tell their friends. My buddies and I were at UCLA a few weeks ago and we did some pretty random nonsense. Everyone loved the random interactions and I simply told them “Now you’ve got a great story to tell your friends about how these three weirdos approached you with spontaneity.”

  17. Point #5 is probably the most important and the hardest for people to do. Most people would rather chose to keep their mouth shut than ask someone if they need help. Asking someone if they need help is one way of engaging them and listening to those who can’t speak out for themselves. Listening to people is one way of getting in good terms with them. Thank you for sharing this post.

  18. First one rings especially true for me. You definitely have to put the time into meeting new people. Most others aren’t used to a strange nice person that doesn’t want anything of theirs. Be the exception rather than the rule!

  19. Great list Vincent. I would also add that some people don’t ask for help even when they need it. If you can anticipate a need, just do it. It could be sometime small like holding a door or giving a fellow student a sticky note with encouragement.

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  1. Quotes, goedkoop delen of waardevol gereedschap? - November 18, 2013

    […] Because of that, you cannot say life is uninteresting. You don’t get to be bored. If you find yourself bored, go around and talk to others. Learn their life stories and spread happiness. […]

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