Saturday, October 31, 2009

Come on, get happy: Tapping into the happiness factor

What makes you happy?

"Half the Sky" authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn note that "our happiness levels seem to be mostly innate, and not markedly affected by what happens to us, good or bad."  Yet psychologist and professor Jonathan Haidt and others advise "there are a few factors that can affect our happiness levels in a sustained way.  One is 'a connection to something larger' — a greater cause or a humanitarian purpose. ... We are neurologically constructed so that we gain huge personal dividends from altruism." (Bold highlighting mine)

How to tap into that happiness factor, today? Kristof and WuDunn give you four steps you can take in the next 10 minutes.

1. "Go to or and open an account. Both sites are people-to-people (P2P), meaning that they link you directly to a person in need overseas, and this makes them an excellent way to dip your toe in. Global Giving lets you choose a grassroots project to which to give money in education, health, disaster relief, or more than a dozen other areas around the developing world. Kiva lets you do the same for microlending to entrepreneurs. Browse the sites to get a sense of the needs and donate or lend money to those that appeal to you, perhaps as a gift to a family member or friend. Or try a third site,, started by students at the University of Pennsylvania to help children in developing countries pay for primary school."

Note: These sites offer a lot of ways to help, and even with the individual stories and photos, the need is overwhelming. I tried to still my monkey mind and asked God (or the Universe, or whatever guide you ask help from) to make one group or woman grab my heart more than the others. The answer came in the form of the work I want to support long-term, empowerment and education of women in Kosovo. If you want to support Women for Women International's work educating women in Kosovo, click here, or go directly to the Women for Women site here.

And remember, if you can't give a chunk of money today, you can sign up for a monthly donation, even $5/month is helpful.

The book continues with three other ways to get involved today:

2. "Sponsor a girl or a woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service."

3. "Sign up for e-mail updates on and/or Both distribute information about abuses of women and sometimes advise on actions that readers can take."

4. "Join the CARE Action Network at This will assist you in speaking out, educating policy makers, and underscoring that the public wants action against poverty and injustice."

This book is a must-read.  I cannot recommend enough that you buy it.  A portion of the proceeds from Half the Sky goes to some of the organizations they highlight.

(Photo: Riverside Smile by Erica Derricka,

No comments: