"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" -
Dr. Martin Luther King
I read this quote and immediately recognized it as the perfect concept to launch my monthly blogs. I was in a tough space when I read this. Things were not going well. I was doubting myself and overwhelmed with commitments that took my focus away from the work I love to do, the work that makes me happy - working with and doing things for survivors and their families. This distress prompted me to pause and think about what I needed to do to remedy the situation. I stepped back, took some time to read, listen to others and think - and then I remembered Drs. Ed Diener and Sonja Lyubomirsky research about happiness - how to measure, experience and generate this emotion. Dr. Lyubomirsky found that 50% of our happiness level is determined by our genes. We are born with a range of happiness called our genetic set point or set range. When really good things or really bad things happen to us we respond and then return to our set point. Our circumstances, things we are 'told' to focus on, what job we have, how much money we have, our social status, our health, only accounts for 10 % of our happiness. This leaves 40 % unexplained or unaccounted for. Thus, there is a great deal a person can intentionally do to affect their level of happiness. This is called intentional activity. Dr. Diener followed individuals and looked at their moods over time, all over the world, to understand what really matters and how happiness works. It appears there is a bit of a formula to experiencing happiness. One major activity, one part of the formula is: purpose - resolving to do something for others.
For a long time psychologists studied depression and psychological illness with the goal of eliminating and ridding people of these problems. More recently, there has been a different research focus - studying health, wellbeing and happiness. Concentrating on what makes us well, what brings forth healing and how to acquire a peace of mind that supports happiness. What are the building blocks that led to a life not just free of illness but one that flourishes with deep and genuine happiness? I studied this in the context trauma. Instead of intently focusing on the pathology of trauma and the significant problems that occur in the aftermath, my research, along with others, found that one can and does experience amazing growth post trauma. These events bring forth profound opportunities to evolve; spiritually, emotionally and physically. The research supporting Metahab involved listening to survivors who, over time, grew and found true happiness in the aftermath of traumatic events - recognizing why but more importantly how this growth was accomplished. The building blocks to Metahab involve intentional activities, mindsets and behaviors specifically directed toward moving forward. A key intention and behavior involves purpose. Survivors, after time, recognized purpose - ways to be of service. This behavior brought forth a remedy to their distress, grief and depression, guiding them toward happiness and posttraumatic growth.
Martin Luther King's statement motivates me to keep pushing. To keep the faith regarding my purpose and service. My valued friend, Dr. Bridget Parsh reminded me of this several years ago. Lacking confidence and filled with fear about writing my first book, she quietly but forcefully reminded me, "it's not about you...you found out something people need to know. You owe it to them to share this information." I frequently remind myself of those powerful words and message. Surviving my own traumatic event, experiencing all the angst, fear and frustration associated with recovery - I get it. I can't forget or discount the valuable lessons learned. I recognize the mindset inspired by Victor Frankl - a growth mindset that challenges you to find some meaning in your suffering. Once you recognize this meaning and look toward a hopeful future, you recognize what you can do instead of what you cannot - and you will be in a perfect place to do something for others. You will find your purpose. A way to do something of others. There are unlimited opportunities. Between natural and human disasters, some well-known, some known only to you and your family or communities, there is plenty to do. Call someone, ask how they are doing. Send a card. Take them a meal. Invite them out for a movie, coffee or a walk. Participate in an event to support a cause important to you. Keep it simple. These acts of intention, of kindness show others - they matter. Don't worry about knowing the right thing to say or having answers for their troubles. Just listen, have a laugh, give a hug. It goes a long way.
Sharing the message and system of metahab is my mission, my answer to 'what am I doing for others' and 'what makes me happy'. Let's keep this practice going. Let's do it together. Send me a message. Let me know what intentional choices you are making to be happy, to be of service. I would love to share what you are doing for others and your pathway to happiness.