Guest post from Meik Wiking, author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute

11th October 2017 - Published Date

In the movie Amélie, the shy waitress finds an old metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades earlier. Amélie finds the boy - now a grown man - and returns the box to him. She promises herself that if it makes him happy, she will devote her life to bringing happiness to others. The man is moved to tears and Amélie embarks on her new mission. She starts a romance between people. She persuades her father to follow his dream of touring the world. She escorts a blind man to the Métro station, giving a rich description of the street scenes they pass.

I think the world needs more Amélies. What if we all became secret superheroes of kindness?

And there are several reasons why we should. One of them is the 'Helper's High'. The term is based on the theory that doing something good makes us feel good, because the action produces a mild version of a morphine high. So here are five random acts of kindness you might want to try out this week:

- Leave a gift on someone's doorstep.      

- Learn the name of the person at the front desk or other people you see every day. Greet them by name.

- Make two lunches and give one away.

- Talk to the shy person who's on their own at a party or at the office. 

- Compliment someone. Right now.

What’s more, altruism can also affect our overall happiness and how we evaluate our lives. People who volunteer are happier than those who do not, even over factors like socioeconomic status, for instance. Moreover, volunteers tend to experience less depressive symptoms and anxiety and have a more meaningful, engaged life.

Volunteering comes in many forms and you may want to combine volunteering with some of your other personal goals and interests:

- Passionate about politics? Volunteer for a local candidate you feel good about.

- Need training in public speaking? Teach.

- Interested in learning more about foreign cultures? Become a mentor for an expat.

- Love the outdoors? Environmental organisations need your help with nature trail maintenance.

- Want more exercise? Coach sports.

- Want to gain practice in playing in front of an audience? Contact your local elderly care facility.

Perhaps this old Chinese proverb says it best: ‘If you want happiness for an hour - take a nap. If you want happiness for a day - go fishing. If you want happiness for a year - inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime - help someone else.’