How Do You Make Your Heart Happy?

"There is no way to Happiness.  Happiness is the way."

“There is no way to Happiness. Happiness is the way.”

“Are you kidding me?!”

That was the flabbergasted response to a young man’s reaction from a waitress when she told him that their meal was paid for by an anonymous donor.

Still dumbfounded, the young women across the table from him, tried to clarify:

“That is SO weird.”  “Are you serious?!”

The waitress reassured them that, it was, indeed, the fact.  The couple sat in disbelief, looking as if they just had won the lottery.

It was only a small gift felt from the heart of two little boys, on a mission, to make their heart and their grandmother’s heart “happy.”

And, there, in that scene and within that moment, sat these two, unnoticed, little boys cunningly, like the two secret spy agents they always aspired to be, peering between the rails overhead of our booth and surveying this couple’s reaction – strangers to them, but now new “secret friends.”

The 10-year old boy, with eyes widened and thunderstruck: “Did you see their big smiles?!”

And the younger 7-year old boy, with scrutinizing eyes, watched every detail and hung on every word.

It was all merely a lesson in love and in “doing small things with great heart.”  It is February – the month of the heart, of giving and loving and caring.

And like all good deeds, the giver receives even more the recipient.

You know those moments – the ones where your heart melts because of the goodness and kindness of strangers.  Your day is revitalized by another individual’s thoughts and actions.  That was this moment.

I had been reading Michael O’Riordan’s article: Happy hearts: Positivity Plus Exercise Linked to Lower CVD Mortality”, when my mind wandered onto the thought of how to make my heart happy.

It sounded like the perfect challenge for the day.  This should be uplifting, perhaps adrenalin-producing, bring a smile to my face and a skip to my step.  I just wasn’t sure how to make it come about.

What is the secret to a happy heart?

The September 2013 study demonstrated a connection between a positive emotional mindset and a lower mortality rate in patients with ischemic heart disease.  The study stated:

“Patients with higher levels of positive affect, which reflects a pleasurable response to the environment and typically includes feelings of happiness, joy, excitement, contentment, and enthusiasm, had a 42% lower risk of all-cause mortality at five years and were 50% more likely to participate in an exercise program than those with lower levels of positive affect.”

This can be explained further by elaborating a bit on positive psychology – which can be defined as a “field of study that examines healthy states such as happiness, strength of character and optimism” and was founded by Martin Seligman, along with his website – Authentic Happiness.

Did I mention I found this insightful information on Authentic Happiness on one of my favorite blogs – Heart Sisters?

Dr. Seligman’s site summarizes extensive data on optimism and happiness in relation to cardiovascular disease:

“All studies of optimism and CVD converge on the conclusion that optimism is strongly related to protection from cardiovascular disease. This holds even correcting for all the traditional risk factors such as obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol use, high cholesterol, and hypertension. It even holds correcting for depression, correcting for perceived stress, and correcting for momentary positive emotions.”

I conclude the happiness we receive from giving reinforces our optimism and hopeful attitude, thereby insuring a healthy heart.

In seeking to “make my heart happy”, and armed with lessons from Dr. Seligman who launched the website Authentic Happiness I felt well supported in the development of “the attitudes, skills and habits most likely to predispose us to a happier life.”

To multiply the happiness and enrich my day, I chose to do it with family members.  Having them readily accessible, I chose Melissa, a 37 year mother with two young boys – ten-year-old Brandon and seven-year-old Lucas.

I only knew that surrounding myself with the people I love and FOOD (key word here!), and giving to others would make my heart happy.  Sharing this knowledge and experience with those I love, only multiplies the reward.

Setting the plan into action, Melissa, Brandon, Lucas and I headed to our local Perkins restaurant  where “eating well never tasted so good.”  Our plan was to enjoy a “hearty” breakfast while we discussed how to make our heart happy!

The happiness dialog began.  The “paying it forward” concept unrolled.  We were going to experience “the good life” with a “happy heart.”  We highlighted the conversation with small acts of kindness and good manners.

The boys responded immediately as they shifted into “little gentleman mode”.

~ Opening doors for others.

~ Realizing that good manners matter.

~ Chirping pleasantries:  “Have a good day!”

~ Wearing BIG smiles

~ Ordering their own meal with “pleases” and “thank yous.”

~ Complimenting each other:  “Lucas, your coloring looks especially nice today.”

I was in awe of these little men living in the moment with compassion for others.  We all decided we would pay for someone’s meal without letting them know who we were.  The boys chose the family.

As we waited for our food, we explained to them that the joy would spread all over the world – if they did one kind thing, the next person would do something and then more and more people would be treating others with kindness.  AND THEY started it all into motion.  It was known as the domino effect.  Acts of kindness are contagious.

We must remember that we don’t expect anything in return.  We will feel the joy in your heart.  It will do your heart good.

I told them that practicing acts of kindness would raise their serotonin, only with them questioning what serotonin was.  It is a chemical the brain will release and has tremendous health benefits, including making our heart more healthy and our mind more happy!  It helps to regulate mood, sleep, appetite and learning.

They say that even the people “watching the act of kindness” will feel better too.  Bystanders are equally blessed by the release of serotonin, simply by seeing what is occurring.

I could see our waitress, Shauna, was feeling some of the simple joy too.  Shauna shared that she had three young boys herself, which made this “experiment” even more fruitful.  She seemed to grasp the curiosity-driven personality and probing disposition of these two young lads.  It was heart-warming.  Their interactions and conversations edified the entire process.

Lucas, the most detailed-oriented little fellow, inquired of our waitress: “I see you have a star on your name badge by your name.  What does that mean?”

Shauna readily explained:  “I have been here over 4 years and passed some tests and gained a higher status as one of the head servers.”  The boys were impressed.

And the older one instantly articulated that he could tell she was a head server because she was so outstanding in how she served us.  A moment later, when I asked how big a tip we should leave Shauna, they both agreed:  “I think we should give her a hundred dollar bill!”

Serving and caring for others transcends all wisdom and self-regard.  “Paying it forward” or “doing what you would want others to do for you” benefits the doer most of all.  This was the lesson I wanted to impact to my grandsons.

John Eric Holmes (author 1930 – 2010) succinctly condenses our experience.

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

It really did “make our heart happy.” ♥

Please tell me.  I need to know.  What makes your heart happy?

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10 Comments on “How Do You Make Your Heart Happy?

  1. Your blog made my heart HAPPY. I wish ALL parents and grandparents would raise children like this. I all too often see children so self-centered. What a great way to make our heart HAPPY..become the hands, FEET, and mouth of CHRIST!!!!! Thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for making the world a better place. I bet Brandon and Lucas learned so much, and it continues as they watch MELISSA and your example EVERYDAY!! Bravo!!!!!!

  2. Okay, it’s official: you are definitely in the running for Grandmother Of The Year honours this year, Sharon! Your insightful essay was a tremendous way to start off my Sunday morning. Thanks by the way for the nice mention of my Heart Sisters blog. I too was so inspired by Dr. Martin Seligman’s work on authentic happiness when I first heard of him. I suspect, however, that those of us who are intrinsically more positive in the first place are quicker to heed his message.

    I laughed right out loud at Brandon’s compliment to his brother: ““Lucas, your coloring looks especially nice today!” You provided your family with such a priceless lesson in humanity and generosity of spirit. It will be forever with them – congratulations and thank you for this inspiring lesson.

    I think that those of us struggling with ongoing daily cardiac symptoms have to be even more deliberate in embracing the positivity that Mike O’Riordan explains in his report on the Yale study.

    Thanks again for reminding us today.

    Cheers,
    C.

    • Who is making who happy here?! Thank you, Carolyn. It is always such a joy to hear from you – your response always brings me authentic happiness. And, yes, my grandchildren have a way of taking my happy barometer to a higher level. The wonder and words of children bring a tender smile and pure joy. With a grateful heart, thank you and Happy Sunday to you! (By the way, do you have grandkids?)

  3. No grandkids yet (but I live in hope!) Meanwhile, I “adopted” my friend Gail’s grandbabies, and have had them every Friday for the past seven years! They call me Baba (Ukrainian for grandmother). Children can never have enough grandmothers who love them, right?

    • Right! Absolutely! That is what I always say, in fact. Kids cannot have too many people love them… adults too, now that you have me thinking… AND I love the name: “Baba.” I am exceptionally fond of “Grams” now, though. Thank you for responding.

  4. I have noticed that the thing that makes me most happy when good things happen to my children and my grandchildren. Also I realize how happy I am when someone is kind of helpful to them. In a way, I relate to what Christ says, “If you do it to the least of these my brethren, you do it on to me.” Having a friend like you, Sharon, makes me very happy and brings me much joy. Ida Mae

    • What great inspiration for a Sunday morning, Ida Mae. I have heard it said:”Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise to our Lord – then you will discover the fullness of your life.” And that truly will make our heart happy. Your friendship is deeply cherished Ida Mae, and yes, indeed, makes me so happy! Happy Sunday, huckleberry friend.

  5. Seeing my little grandaughter Evie, and seeing the joy+warmth she brings to everyone makes my heart happy! Knowing she is in fine extra loving hands with a loving family that surrounds her makes me secure in the knowledge that she will be happy and safe and have a loving hart,much like her GREAT Aunt Sharon!
    Ronaldo

    • Evie makes my heart happy too! She is an amazing and extraordinary little girl. It is easy to see the love and joy she brings to your family. I know she will make a difference in the world, making it a happier place. Thank you for responding! Have a happy week ahead!

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