How to Be Happy Every Day: It Will Change the World by Jacqueline Way (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of 365give founder Jacqueline Way’s TEDx Talk presentation on How to Be Happy Every Day: It Will Change the World at TEDxStanleyPark conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.

 

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Jacqueline Way – Founder, 365give

So I have what some consider to be one of the toughest jobs on the planet. I am a mom.

I am a parent to three very busy little boys who magically think I’m a doctor, a baker, a coach, a chef, a therapist, and have the patience of a saint 24/7. I truly do my best and some days are definitely better than others, especially the part about having the patience of a saint.

I want what most parents want for my kids. I want them to have a happy childhood. I want them to be free to play, build friendships, grow to be kind, compassionate, happy adults. But there seems to be one small challenge.

The World Happiness Report states at any one time over 220 million children and 1 billion adults suffer from anxiety, depression and conduct disorders. Not exactly a pretty picture of happy people on a Happy Planet.

Unfortunately, as adults whether you’re a parent or not, this is what our children are learning from us. You see how busy we are every day. They feel our stress and they watch us struggle to find our own happiness.

So how do we go from anxiety and depression to happy? Some good news. The World Happiness Report also states the best predictor of whether a child becomes a satisfied adult is through their emotional health in childhood. So if I have this right, should be easy. Happy children, happy adults, happy planet; yes. Well this is the exact lesson I learned from again.

When I was a little girl, growing up in the big city of London, Ontario, every Christmas morning my dad would take my three sisters and I to his office. You see my dad was a doctor in his office, a hospital. It was our job to stand around the beds of his patients and sing Christmas carols.

We started with the same song every time and my dad, he’d lead the singing. Now this is probably a TEDx first, so join me if you know it. We wish you a Merry Christmas; we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. You guys are amazing, I am signing you all up for this year. And look at your smiles, we did this every Christmas morning for years. Those patients say sing along with us, just like you did. And their smiles — their smiles would light up their hospital rooms.

This is what I learned from our singing. Giving back to those patients, it made them happy and it made me happy. And we’ve all heard that giving makes you happy and it’s better to give than receive.

But have you actually thought of why? Well, researchers from all over the world have been studying the science and psychology of giving. They’ve discovered that our brains and our bodies are actually hardwired for giving. When we give, our endorphins kick in, giving us this natural high feeling. They’ve actually called it the ‘helper’s high’. Our oxygen levels rise, this would be our love hormone. And for those of you that have been looking for the Fountain of Youth, it’s our body’s natural anti-aging remedy, and that feeling I got when I volunteer with my dad, that’s serotonin, our body’s happy transmitter.

But here’s the icing on the cake. Our cortisol levels drop. This is our stress hormone. Giving reduces anxiety and stress and it makes us happy.

Now what if I told you, you could be happy every day and it’s simple. In fact, it’s so simple a three-year-old can do it. Well, on my first son Nick’s third birthday, I decided I was going to teach him how he could be happy every day. I was going to teach Nick to give. I introduced the idea over a birthday cake and ice cream: “Nick, we are going to start this super-fun family project together. We are going to give back to the world every day for one year.”

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Now I waited to see the excitement on his face. That excitement that I was feeling; and instead he says, “Mommy, how many days are in a year?”

Oh yeah, not exactly the response I was looking for, but Nick was just three. I had to approach this daily giving idea a little differently. Still I got out some craft paper and a big box of crayons and I started again: “Nick, we’re going to do one thing to be kind, helpful, giving to a person, an animal or the planet every day for 365 days.”

Now when I shared this idea with friends and family, they thought I was being, shall we say a little ambitious. I was going to give back to the world every day for 365 days with a three-year-old. I agreed, seemed like a lot, but not when you start small, just one give one day at a time.

Nick and I started a list just to get us going, had to be easy and close to home. Donate towels and blankets for a local animal shelter, pick up garbage, recycle, give clothes to a favorite charity and our list went on. Well, Nick quickly got on — caught on and now he was excited. He was actually so excited he wanted to start that day on his birthday.

So first stop, down at the local animal shelter to donate towels and blankets. When we walked into that shelter you instantly got hit by this smell of somewhere between wet dog and disinfectant. We could hear dogs barking. I knew they were locked in cages; they were behind the closed door. Nick handed our towels and blankets over the nice lady behind the desk. She gave us a big smile and she thanked us for our donation.

Well, as we turned to leave, Nick noticed two big glass doors that led into a room filled with cats. He went up to that glass and he peered in and then he turned to me, and said, “Mommy, can you see those cats sleeping on that red blanket back there. Will our blankets be for those cats?” He turned a nice lady behind the desk and she said, you bet. You’d just see Nick’s little brain going. He was making the connection that his daily give was going to help those cats. Nick learned that very first day as he turned to me and he smiled and he said, awesome mom, that giving made him happy.

Day two, down at the beach for a little fun in the Sun and a game, how much garbage could we pick up in three minutes or less, because that was the attention span of my three-year-old.

Day three, we took that garbage and we sorted it. At the ripe old age of three, Nick learned to recycle.

Well, daily giving quickly became a routine for Nick, just like kind of brushing his teeth. Well, actually come to think of it, it would be easier to teach a three-year-old to give every day than it is to brush their teeth every day for sure.

Nick asked if we could share our daily giving adventures with our friends and family, so they could follow along. So that very first day I started a blog and I called it 365give. Now just so you know I am not a writer or some social media guru, so you can imagine how surprised I was when people started reading the blog other than my friends and family. They started reading and engaging from all over the world. They send me emails and leave comments with their daily giving stories, because they were inspired by Nick. Actually I was so excited I’m going to share just a few of it today.

So Henry from London, England wrote: I walk past the same homeless man every day on my way to work. Today I brought him breakfast, he was so grateful I stopped, it’s going to be my daily give every day from now on.

[Aloney] from Lehrer, Uganda: I took four children that live on a street near my home to lunch today. The children were so happy to have a meal and for the first time in a long time they felt like somebody cared.

And Amy from Australia: I’m a grade four teacher and I started 365give a daily giving practice in my classroom.

Well, this one — this one took me by surprise. Could you really teach 365give in a classroom? I didn’t know I was just a mom. But as fate has it, I get a call from a good friend Sarah. She’s a local elementary school teacher and she says, “Jacqueline, I want to take the 365give concept into my classroom. Actually my entire school.”

Well, we were both so excited, we went to work. We created an educational program, a tool for teachers that integrates a simple daily giving practice with their curriculum, we called it the 365give challenge. It’s unique because it’s powered by the kids. They choose how they’re going to give, support causes and impact the world in ways that they choose.

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We started in Sarah’s school and I actually couldn’t wait to hear how the kids were going to give. A few weeks into the challenge, I went down and I met with a grade two class, seven-year-old kids. When I walked into that classroom, I’m not sure who was more excited, me or the kids. First up was Arman. he waved his hand frantically, he just couldn’t wait to tell me all about the fresh-baked cookies they had made and delivered to their local firehouse. They want to thank the firefighters for all they did in their community. Arman was just beaming with pride.

Next up was Mia. Well Mia’s little cousin had suffered from cancer that year, and the kids, the entire class, they decided they were going to do a popcorn sale right at school. They raised $252 dollars over recess and they donated it to a charity that supports kids with cancer. But this is the part that just about had me to tears, because I could never have dreamed that my super fun family project with my son could cause a ripple to so many. And it’s what their teacher Mrs. Story said to me, “Jacqueline, my kids are understanding how their actions can make a better world. It’s connected them to each other and their community and most importantly it’s making my classroom happy.”

The 365give challenge has now touched over 5,000 children in 25 schools and we have only just begun. The kids are sharing their daily giving stories with other kids and it’s creating a ripple in other families, their communities and around the world. The challenge was created for kids but it’s actually for all of us, doesn’t matter where you live, what you do or how old you are. Just imagine if we all did it.

It started with just one child giving every day, that’s 365 daily gives. We shared and it’s rippled to right here, with all of you. Now let’s take everybody in this room over 2000 people, times 365 daily gives, that is over 700,000 daily gives. It’s no longer just one child giving every day but each and every one of us creating a better world, a happier world and it’s so simple a three-year-old can do it. It’s a daily habit just like brushing your teeth. Start your list today, take a look at your life, your world, your family, your day, do what works for you. Donate, volunteer, help a neighbor, be kind to a stranger. This is how we’re going to go from anxiety and depression to happy.

Together we can all start small and we can make the world a better world, a happier world, one give one day at a time.