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.
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.”
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.