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Altruism – the happiness Ferrari

By Noigroup HQ Science and the world 20 Mar 2014

In honor of United Nations International Day of Happiness we here at NOI are issuing a challenge. But not before a little education!

What is happiness?
John Reich from Arizona State University summarises happiness as the awareness that you can cause positive events to occur, and that you can prevent negative things from happening to you.

Ingredients for life
Science (with the help of Prof Ed Diener) has created a happiness formula. It includes frequent positive affect (pleasurable feelings), reduced negative affect (painful experiences) and a large amount of life satisfaction. To fit this into your daily life Prof Diener -possibly the happiest man alive? – has listed the following as essential:

1. Psychological wealth is more than money. It is also your attitudes, goals and engaging activities at work.
2. Happiness not only feels good, but is beneficial to relationships, work and health.
3. It is helpful to set realistic expectations about happiness. No one is intensely happy all of the time.
4. Thinking is an important aspect to happiness. His theory of Attention, Interpretation, and Memory (AIM) helps people to increase their psychological wealth.

Attempting to cause as many positive events as you feel capable of – and being successful at them – will set you on the fast track to true happiness. And if you want to drive on that fast track in a Ferrari we recommend a little known happiness booster called altruism. Giving giving causes happiness, and as it turns out, happy people are more likely to give! This starts a little thing called the altruism cycle.

Our challenge to you
NOI are challenging you to start a cycle of your own by performing 1 (or more) altruist act today. It doesn’t need to be big act. You don’t even need to know the person. Buy a bus ticket, pay for someone’s coffee- just do something kind. If you feel strange bout this you can just blame International Happiness Day!

And now dance around to this 🙂

Diener, E. and Rober-Biswas Diener (2008) Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Blackwell: Oxford.

Kat Waterman


  1. Because I’m happy…..!!!! I instigated a ” Hug every patient day” yesterday which probably did more good than anything else I had to offer. Why don’t we organise a NOI” hug a patient” national day?

  2. I agree that altruism can be a very good technique. It does however need to be properly applied. I’m thinking in particular of Mother Teresa, whose life of altruism caused her great unhappiness.

    Proper application would mean being altruistic only when it feels good and not otherwise. If it doesn’t feel good, then the self is holding on, and to force the point will just create misery.

    1. Personally I couldn’t disagree more. Being altruistic 24/7 even in my moments of darkness and deepest despair has kept me afloat and brought sunshine back into my soul. To give only when it suits oneself is simply selfish and egotistical ………naturally to serve others one must first serve oneself but the two go hand in hand or better said soul in soul……one cannot “Be” without the other……

  3. Hi David,

    I find altruistic actions mostly lead me to happier states, but sometimes they don’t. I’ve analysed those times when it felt ‘wrong’ and found that the self was holding on very tightly at those moments. So it’s interesting to read that you have applied this even in states of despair and found good outcomes.

    Mother Teresa’s case is really interesting to me. I’ve read excerpts of her book and been stunned how miserable she was for most of her life. Some have argued this was a case of “Dark Night of the Soul” or “dukkha nanas” as the Buddhists call it, wherein the psyche undergoes horrible misery as the self-image fades. If she had been able to surrender to that deep level fear of non-existence rather than fight it, I wonder what might have happened….? Madness? Enlightenment?

    Jung was adamant that the self-image (ego) should be looked after and made healthy before any attempts are made to see through it. To use spiritual practices (such as altruism or meditation) before the self-image is made positive can lead to psychological trauma. Really good article here:

  4. I find, personally that one can multitask- even as a man- and care for ones soul and that of the other at the same time. I find that one action helps heal the other and visa versa……..

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