In Search of Real Giving to find Happiness

I truly saw my most impactful experience of giving as an outlet of joy when I was in the 9th grade. I had a teacher take a group of us (students) to the zoo where we met up with a large group of homeless children. It was an incredible experience that will stay with me my whole life. I was a young girl surrounded by children in a different circumstance, but wanting and needing the exact same things. These kids wanted the same toys for Christmas, they were happy seeing animals in a zoo in the dead of winter and eating sandwiches on a cold, pavement floor. It didn’t matter. Joy was everywhere that day. I specifically remember one, little girl who clinged to me for safety the whole day. By the end of our zoo day, she did not want to leave my side. It was hard to know that I would let go of her hand and she would be swept back into a different reality of homelessness. I will be forever grateful for that memorable day and the gift of service it shared with me.

I just finished reading an incredible book that was so well written, researched and done incredibly in-depth on many levels. I was drawn to the book in hopes of better understanding our innate need, desire, and reasons for giving. The book, “The Giving Way to Happiness” by Jenny Santi is full of stories from around the globe (wealthiest people, celebrities, givers of good) in interviews that help unlock reasons for giving. She packed it full of psychological research, stats, interviews, stories, so much that you will definitely finish feeling like a well of knowledge was given. Its a great read.

I wanted to highlight some of my favorite moments, quotes, stats and a few stories. Hope you enjoy! Hope you feel like reading further.


“I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose…When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.” -Ellen Degeneres

“It is clear that meaning in life contributes to a happier life. Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, whose research concentrates on what makes people feel happy and fulfilled, concluded that happiness has three dimensions that can be cultivated: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life. The Pleasant Life is relayed when we fill our lives with the sensual pleasures, such as food, good sex, and nice things. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to lasting fulfillment. The Good Life is achieved through discovering our signature strengths and using them to obtain gratification. The Meaningful Life goes one step beyond this, and happens when we use our unique strengths in service of something larger than ourselves.” “To live all three is to lead a full life.” says Seligman.

“High levels of meaning in life predict low levels of psychological distress and high levels of happiness and self-esteem, and the relationship between meaning in life and psychological well-being is substantial.”

“Meaning must be found and cannot be given.

“When you have a sense of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. When you’re ‘In Purpose’ that is, engaged with and working toward your purpose, life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful. You become more mono-focused, like an arrow flying toward its target, and your mind feels somehow taut and strong, with less space for negativity to seep in,” says Steve Taylor

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” -Mark Twain

A few of My HIGHLIGHTS and favorite cannot miss stories: Story of model Petra Nemcova pg 1 & here will to serve, Viktor Frankl story pg 39, From Russia with Love–the story of Natalia Vodianova (famous model) pg 43, Incredible power couple who created The World Economic Forum pg182, John Foster story and so many more. Lots of good stories woven within the pages. Ric O’Barry story on pg 80

Goldie Hawn and the Hawn Foundation

Highlights from Goldie Hawn pg 48–When Goldie is asked, “How is the happiness you get out of your charitable work different from the happiness you get from your career?” “It’s quite different. One is self-centered, and there are lots of happy things that can happen to us that way. You know, you can get enough money to buy a new house; you can buy new shoes. These are all fleeting aspects of happiness. they don’t last. They’re like ripples on the water. They come and go. As long as the money is there, you’re happy and you’re okay. but when you’re really working toward making a difference, you get a deeper, deeper level of satisfaction, because it’s not for you. It’s for something bigger than just you, and the people that you meet along the way are your soul mates. They fortify you. They thrill you. They make you happy. And when you get into it, you really that you’ll attract people who are doing things aligned with your vision. Your connection to them also brings you lasting joy.”

She also says, “Those who are looking for happiness will find it in giving. “That has been researched time and time again. It really brings people out into the light from the darkness. It’s a very important aspect to continue to exercise in our lives–how you give back, how you think about humanity, how you consider yourself of value. You can go and be of help; you are engaged in the world. This helps people become happier. Giving back is as good for you as it is for those you are helping, because giving gives you purpose. When you have a purpose-driven life, you’re a happier person. You’re engaged. You’re alive.”

Super Happiness pg 116–The story of the Grameen Bank, which was started by the incredible Professor Yunus. He is known as “Banker to the Poor” & a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He never set out to become a lender, he just saw a problem and a solution. “Every time I see a problem, I create a business to solve the problem. This leads to “Superhappiness,” he says.

[I am jumping around a bit on these quotes—his whole philosophy is helping others as a community and economically] “Human beings are built in a different way. There are two things inside of us: selflessness and selfishness.” “Making money is happiness; making other people happy is super happiness. But if you don’t know that yet because you haven’t tried that, so you think there is only one happiness–making money.” “All I’m saying is take a bit of it; find out. Then if you know the super happiness, you can decide which happiness you would like to go through, or you mix both: You have happiness from making money, and the super happiness from touching people’s lives and changing the whole world. You have the capacity of changing the whole world. You didn’t know that because you are too busy taking care of yourself.”

So many great tidbits of great giving throughout.

Another great story: Billionaire John Paul DeJoria, who cofounded Paul Mitchell hair products in 1970, was raised in a European immigrant community in downtown Los Angeles. His mother once told him and his brother the three had just twenty-seven cents between them, but with food int he fridge, a backyard garden, and happiness, they were rich. For a time, DeJoria lived in his car while selling products door-to-door. He said, “One Christmas, when I was six years old, my mother took us to see the window displays and decorations in the big department stores in downtown Los Angeles. It was a big treat for us. We saw puppets that moved and trains that circled…It was really special and added to the Christmas spirit, but it didn’t cost anything. That same year, my mother gave my brother and me a dime. She told Bothe of us to hold half of it and put it in the bucket near a man who was ringing a bell. We did, and then we asked my mother why we gave him the dime (at the time, a dime could buy you three candy bars or two soda pops). My mom’s reply was, “This is the Salvation Army that helps people who are really in need. Remember boys, no matter how much you have, there is always someone who is more in need than you. Always try to give, even if it is a little.” Needless to say, that stuck with me in my adult life. Whether it’s feeding thousands of orphans in third world countries, saving whales, helping the homeless find employment, protecting our waterways, resting young girls from prostitution, teaching and supplying families in Appalachia with equipment to grow their own vegetables, or any other worthwhile endeavor….giving back is a practice and joy I want my family to continue.”

There is a lot of the book that has depth, direction and additional stories, so if you enjoyed some of these stories, then you will find additional jewels throughout this book.

Overall, the point is to truly find purpose in giving. It will not only impact your life and health, but those you touch in the service of giving. It is a good all around.

Peace. Love and Light to you today. -H


This image reminds me of my time along the coast. The other day, I was walking and watched a seagull flying high above me, so I began to lift my arms and fly with him. I watched his every move and copied his pattern. It was as if I was flying down the beach. I began to feel a rhythm in my body as I moved. I began to slow, to breathe deeply and to take in every breath and movement with intention. I needed it. It was like walking, doing yoga, meditating and finding a focus, all at once. I was in Awe. I thought to myself…AWE…Always Wander Every day. My mind began to play with the word over and over…Always Wonder…Amazed…Enthusiasm. So, AWE is now a type of mantra.

I walked for awhile and on my way back down the beach I ran into some neighbors. One of them said, “I thought that was you. Were you doing yoga or something while you were walking? Whatever you were doing, you seemed happy. I knew it had to be you.”

I smiled and responded, “I was flying down the beach, breathing in the fresh air…kind of like yoga,” I smiled.

I walked away happy to feel like I was giving off a happy vibe. For me, it was a moment and an experience that transported me to AWE.

What can you do to find a little AWE in your every day??

What do you think of when you think of moments that bring about AWE?

For me, it is so many little things. So many gifts that nature bestows upon us. I don’t think anyone could visit the Redwoods and not be humbled and in awe of the giants, the quiet, the almost reverence that is felt there. Every day I stand and look out onto the vast ocean I am in constant awe of how it changes every day. Don’t get me started on sunsets, full moons, tiny rose bud flowers, dew drops on green grasses, the way water mirrors and reflects surrounding beauty, moss, forest paths, clouds, rainbows, patterns and symmetry in nature….so many little things. Nature brings about so much AWE in everything.

No wonder it is mostly memories and experiences in nature that bring people to AWE inspiring moments. If you ask anyone about AWE, guaranteed there is some type of natural place, setting, backdrop of the details that made a walk special, a place memorable, an internal awareness, etc. that holds the gift of AWE within.

What Science says about AWE: According to Psychology Today, Psychologists are busy at work trying to understand more about awe, why it exists and how experiencing awe changes us. So far, they’ve found that after experiencing awe, people feel that they have more time and are part of something bigger. They also are more generous to other people and more satisfied with their lives. And there may even be a link between awe and health—recent research shows that people who tend to feel a lot of awe have fewer proinflammatory cytokines.

Some ideas to instill a little more AWE into your life: go with my quote above. I think it will help you remember daily to Always Wonder and Always Wander…as well as be Amazed with Enthusiasm. This little trick may help you take steps every day to wander.

WANDER: Find new places where you live. Seeking out new things to delight your senses will fill you with more AWE. Think about it. When you just do the same things—nothing excites you, its routine, but if you shake up your norm and find a new hike, walk through a creative store, wander down a new street or a place you have never been–your senses light up and are fired up with all the new colors, new sounds, new sights, etc. It is a new delight. It’s a surprise.

What do you think of when you think of WANDER? I think of–wandering around with no expectation, just a curiosity, a need for a good meander.

WONDER: The sense of wonder speaks of our hunger to be moved, to be engaged and impassioned with the world and take pleasure in it, attuned to it and fascinated by it. Grateful for it.-Gregg Levoy, Psychology Today

Being in a whole new state brings curiosity and wonder every day. Just being near the ocean has brought about daily wonders—what are the types of sea life we find along the shore, the tiny flocks of birds running in and out of the waves, why are these shells or rocks here today…there is so much to learn in every environment, but everything changes when you step out of your norm. There is a sense of play, the variety of experiences that show up, the new people and places, the vast amounts of newness and wonder have a tendency to excite at every level.

There are a variety of ways to bring about a sense of wonder: Maybe you learn a new word of the day (love this) & try to use it in various sentences or listen to a new music station to find some fresh songs to play. Maybe you find new cultural ways to expand your universe—Visit places you’ve wondered about–is there a special exhibit on how chocolate is made at your local museum or is there a play you are curious about attending. Maybe you need to watch an inspiring documentary on a desired subject (My daughter is studying to become a Marine Biologist & had our family watch, “My Octopus Teacher” it was incredible & thought inspiring on many levels–not your normal movie night but it was full of wonder and interest–highly recommend). Maybe you need to enjoy a concert that interests you–(We just watched the Coldplay concert on Netflix & it was fun to see the story and journey of this incredible band). Maybe watch inspiring people give Ted talks on subjects that seem to teem with your personal interests or just stop where you are and seek to find something that stirs some type of AWE within you.

Wonder plays at every turn. Wonder can be found in the beauty of nature or in the simplest of acts when you slow down and notice the details around you. It can delight the senses and it can also deepen your feelings of what you need within your life.

AMAZED: My little family walked the beach earlier today and I had them stop, drop and begin to sift through the tiny grains of sand to see what they could discover. We were in awe of the size and colors of the various minerals, the specks of light, the huge amounts of vast debris that landed at our feet after being moved and tumbled from the ocean floor.

Nature has this incredible way of reminding us how truly small we are. The sands that we walk upon on a beach change every day, the water ebbs and flows, everything cycles, everything moves with an incredible, awe-inspiring beauty that only nature can deliver.

ENTHUSIASM: Comes from the Greek word “Entheos” which means, “The God Within” I LOVE THIS beautiful meaning. When you think of AWE—Enthusiasm must be included because usually things that bring AWE have some detail of God within it. Whether something brings you a sense of awe through joy, simplicity, details, quiet, new experiences, tickles the senses, is thought-provoking, or growth-inspiring–any experience that encompasses AWE—God is happy and so are you.

Think about it. Wonder, Wander, Amazed and Enthusiasm—all touch upon the incredible moments and memories that make your life memorable and worth living. When you grow, when you see and experience new things, when you step out of your comfort and move forward without fear, when you slow down and notice the details and gifts held throughout your life—AWE is the experience.

Finally, I love this quote…Wander often, Wonder always. I would just add…and be Amazed with Enthusiasm 🙂

A few of my favorites lately–besides daily walks in nature. Take these seriously. Slow down your walks on occasion and notice the tiny details. Yesterday, I was at a beautiful, ocean lookout and noticed the field covered in tiny, daisy-type flowers. I got close-up and took a few pics. I thought, “these are probably like dandelions in Utah, these poor flowers are probably not too loved.” I blew them a kiss and proclaimed my love for them. Some people will see weeds, but I see the beauty. We must stop and see the beauty, appreciate it and be in awe of it all.

A FEW ADDITIONAL IDEAS: Enjoying new things…enJOY! A few ideas to get you started.

WORD OF THE DAY to begin: Solivagant…Wandering Alone. Sign-up for word of the day emails or apps that send you a word. There is also WORDLE that I heard is a fun challenge. OR you could also do words of the day for learning a language. Your brain loves a good challenge and induces feelings of inspiration—all good things.

OLYMPIC MUSIC: I came across some beautiful, awe-inspiring music from some of the Olympic. A few favorites: “Wild Side” by Roberto Cacciapaglia and “Experience” by Angele Dubeau. Don’t be afraid to listen to new types of music and find things that inspire awe.

PLACES TO WANDER: Park, garden, or pond you have never been to…a creative store…

MAKE: I recently saw a beautiful mandala at the beach that someone had made out of layers and layers of rock. It was incredible. Make something that slows you—color a mandala, create a mandala out of nature items, draw words or circles in the sand,

Hope these ideas get you started on seeking and finding a little more AWE in your life. xoxo -H