Asking for Help Makes Others Feel Good

Last updated: July 2020

In real-time, Friday started week five of my COVID-19 required isolation. For many, older, visually impaired folks, there have not been too many differences between the COVID-19 new normal isolation and the old, new normal of vision loss type of isolation. Sleep, eat, housework, TV, rinse, repeat. I find that a little disturbing. The reason is this: I have discovered the route to happiness and that doesn’t sound like it!

The Science of Well-Being course

No, I have not been to see the guru on the mountain. The “guru” I found is a Yale professor named Laurie Santos. She teaches a little gem entitled The Science of Well-Being and it is available on Coursera for the princely sum of zero dollars. In other words, if you can download the app, you can have it for free. Yale credits are not included for that price. If you always wanted to “go” to Yale, you will have to pay for the credits.

A simple list

Anyway, Laurie - and yes, she is that “approachable” - has gone to the work of Marty Seligman and other positive psychologists and has put together a list of what science says makes us happy. The list is actually pretty simple and can be done even by us visually impaired, older folks.

Start with sleep and exercise

Since physical health is, in my opinion, the bedrock of mental health, the place I would start is: sleep and exercise. There is no zealot like a convert, so don’t get me started on the benefits of daily exercise. Exercise and sleep are pretty much panaceas for what ails you physically and mentally.

Finding signature strengths

Laurie quotes research on finding your signature strengths and following them. Signature strengths are personality strengths that you have and can - and should! - exploit in daily life. When you are doing what you’re good at, you are generally doing something you love. You can get into what you are doing and be immersed in the flow and then experience a sense of mastery at the end.

Developing new skills

But this doesn’t mean to just stay with what you are good at. Attacking a new task and trying to develop a new skill can be extremely rewarding even if you stink! Case in point: me and technology. I was just about jumping up and down when I learned how to schedule my own clients. Rather pitiful but I cannot let that interfere with my efforts to grow. Besides, as I have said many times before, the disasters make the best stories.

Asking for help

Bringing me to the main The Science of Well-Being point I wanted to make. It comes as no surprise that humans are social beings. Barbra was right when she sang about people needing people. However, I know from experience when I first lost my vision, I was afraid to go into public and ask people for help because I did not want to be a burden. My optometrist told me people are happy to help, so I started asking. The rest is history as the saying goes.

Making others feel good about themselves

Since then I have preached we, the VIPs of the world, should ask for help because we give others the opportunity to feel good about themselves. No empirical evidence, but it sounded good.

Happiness for all!

Guess what! I was right! Laurie quoted studies on acts of kindness that basically say helping others is good for your happiness level. Not only that, but watching someone being kind to someone else also helps to boost your happiness AND the effects of kindness build and last over time. Pretty cool.

In other words, you are serving the common good by asking for help. Ask for and receive help in a public place and the bystanders also get the warm, fuzzies. Again, cool.

Laurie’s course is lecture. As long as you can open the app, you are good. Go forth and learn how to be happy!

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