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The holiday season sparkles with promise. A mystical quality tempts us to peerDisneyland fireworks, Rivers of America beyond the veil into a place brimming with never-ending happiness…like living at Disneyland.

As children we embraced that joy with our whole heart. But as we grew older and more jaded, we lost the connection with the magic, some turning into die-hard cynics because it never reappeared.

The good news is, the magic is still there any time you want it.

The bad news is, you’ve had the key all along and didn’t know it.

The Key to Happiness is Helping Others

Yeah, I know. It sounds like watered down fortune-cookie wisdom. Still, it happens to be true. I’m talking from personal experience too, not reciting something from a Fast-Pass-to-Enlightenment guide. Giving is the focus of many faiths at this time of year, and for good reason.

As a teenager, I was suffered the same angst and self-doubt as everyone else. I was a nerdy overachiever with a side of art-geek, who thought happiness lay in chasing a goal. Funny how when I finally got “there”, happiness had already left the building. Sadly, this delusion lasted for years.

opendoor2Finally, I had the good sense to volunteer at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, after moving to San Francisco. I thought it would be a good way to meet people with the same interests, which it was. But more important, the experience opened me up to the secret of happiness. There’s a wonderful energy that comes from giving selflessly. Our Sunday Night Crew signed in at 5:00 pm, and in an El Nino winter, we often didn’t leave until sunrise. And we had a GREAT time on our shift too! I’d get home in time to shower and head to work. Magically, the energy carried me through the day…with a smile on my face.

A QuickStart Guide to Giving

If you’re one of the many who don’t have time to volunteer for a non-profit organization on a regular basis, you can do something to “give” everyday. And you’ll be surprised by the happiness you receive in return.

  • Give gently used clothes to local shelters or non-profit organizations.
  • Give towels and bedding to local animal shelters and rescue organizations.
  • For more options for giving to local animal shelters, see my It’s Hard to Be a (Grumpy) Cat at Christmas post.
  • Smile and say something nice to the checkout person at the grocery store. Your kind words will make their day.
  • At the end of a conversation with a Customer Service representative, when they ask you if there’s anything else they can do for you? Say, “Yes. Have a Happy Holiday!” Or, “Have wonderful day!” depending on the season.
  • Perform random acts of kindness, helping strangers in unexpected ways.
  • Leave a copy of a favorite book on a table or bench with a “This is yours to enjoy!” note inside to whoever finds it. There’s a Teen Book Drop event called Rock the Drop I’ve participated in for several years now. Why not spread the reading love all year long?!
  • Use a special talent, such as calligraphy, design, or organizational skills to help a non-profit organization promote an event.

The truth is, the more you give the happier you are…and the more you realize you have to give…in ways you never thought possible. It costs so little and the reward is priceless.

Here’s to magically Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year too!

Fireworks hearts