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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 7th February 2017

How To Find a Way Out of Your Darkest Dark

The year I chased after happiness more than ever before, was — in many ways — a year of yuck. It was beset by sickness, loss, doubt, second-guessing, loneliness, and more. That is just weird, isn’t it?

Yet my author-friends had warned me about this. They said that sometimes, when you’re writing a book, you’ll find that you are often called to wrestle with the very things you are writing about. (With a new awareness of this probability, I’ve decided that my next book will address the quality of beach sand in Maui versus the quality of beach sand in Tahiti. Yes, I am willing to suffer for Jesus in an attempt to determine which beaches are best.)

I digress. Now, back to my happiness struggle.

During my research for The Happiness Dare, I had read study after study that drew the same conclusion: When we give to and serve others, we are on a fast track to happiness. Those studies said that one surefire way to be happy was to seek to make others happy.

If that were true, could one way out of my darkest dark, be to give more freely and generously than ever before?

I decided to test that theory for myself. I recruited a friend, along with our children, to embark on a day where we would commit Random Acts of Kindness.

We delivered banana bread to construction workers, took cookies to an elderly couple, left gifts on the front steps of homes where people were going through hard times. We held doors open, practiced the ministry of a smile, and held a gigantic sign at the corner of a busy intersection with the words: “Hey, you! You’re really awesome!”

My happiness was off the charts that day. For a few hours, I forgot about my personal pain, and focused on being a light in the midst of others’ darkness. If just for an afternoon, I forgot about all that had been weighing me down.

A highlight for me came when we delivered flowers and a greeting card to the women’s drug-and-alcohol rehab center. I still remember the words on the card: “You’re braver than you know.” And I still remember how I teared up when, after delivering the flowers, one woman hugged me so long and with such love that I forgot that the world could sometimes be a pretty awful place. She spoke these words: “I can’t believe that someone cares about us.”

I tell some of those stories in the book, and today, I am sharing a few pictures from that day:

Why Giving Works

Giving makes a difference when it comes to happiness. Here’s why: When we give, we reward our brains.

Giving actually creates a hormonal reaction that elevates our moods and causes us to feel happy. One study shows that people who give to charity are 43 percent more likely than nongivers to describe themselves as very happy people. Givers actually experience a mild form of euphoria, which psychologists deem “the helper’s high.”

Secular scientists have begun to affirm what Jesus has been telling us all along: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In the original Greek, the word we often translate as blessed is “makarios,” the Greek word for happy. When we give, we are blessed. And according to God’s Word, we’ll be far happier too.

Giving is countercultural because it puts us second. But Givers prove to the rest of us how the prevailing me-first attitudes about happiness are completely off the mark. When we are dwelling in the sweet spot of happy giving, we put others first.

I probably won’t be able to spend a whole day committing Random Acts of Kindness every time I am having a hard day. But what I learned is this: there’s always, always, always some way that I can give a little love to someone who needs to know they matter.

Do you want to exponentially boost your happiness today? Give. Give with a cheerful heart. Give with your pocketbook or your time, your compassion or your prayers. It doesn’t matter how you give. But if you do, God says you will have a 100 percent guaranteed return of happiness, depositing goodness into your own life.

Spread some happiness today with one of these Random Acts of Kindness. You’ll make someone’s day, and you’ll be happy too.

Learn More In The Happiness Dare

To learn more about the happiness-inducing act of giving (and to read more about this story of giving!) check out pages 145-148 in my latest book, The Happiness Dare.

A Simple Trick to Make Your Week Happier

While you’re here, let me share with you a simple trick to make your week happier. The Belong Tour invited me to share this simple tip with their fans earlier this week, but I also want to share it with you! (Email subscribers might need to click here to see the video.)

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Kylie Howell. If you’re thinking about Valentine’s Day already but you’re struggling to believe that you’re truly loved, Kylie’s words are for you this week! “We’re the beloved not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are.” Find Kylie here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer

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  • I almost lost my coffee through my nose whilst reading about your next ‘book’–I think it’s a marvelous idea! On a more serious note, I’ve really enjoyed reading the Happiness Dare–so much that I’m going to have all the staff at my school take the Happiness Style quiz in a few weeks and talk a little about how we all have different happiness sweet spots (a subtle reminder to those who think that knocking on doors and offering to give Bible studies is the only prescribed manner of happiness 😉 ).

    • Anita — shall we co-author the beach book together? We could suffer side by side? 😉

      So glad you’re enjoying The Happiness Dare. It thrills me to hear that you’re sharing it with your co-workers.

      • I’m in! I’ve got the camera, a super macro lens (for close-ups of the grains of sand) and a nice wide-angle lens (for recording sunsets and sunrises)…

  • I love this encouragement to lean into the happiness of others in such light-hearted and fun ways.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    I wholeheartedly agree. One “dark” day when nothing was going right, I jumped in the car and began my random acts of kindness spree – paying for the person’s coffee behind me in the Starbucks drive through, hugging and asking the gal who make the samples at Trader Joes what I could pray for her. She was a single mom so I gave her money to pick up dinner on the way home. I wrote notes of appreciation and thanks to people that were way over due….long story short my endorphines began to kick in and I didn’t feel so low anymore. It’s not a cure all, but it did get me out of my “poor me” funk. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • That’s it exactly! Thanks for sharing your story, Bev.

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    This is reminded me of what I wrote today! Why we so easily forget that refreshing others will refresh us, I am not sure. I am so glad I was a part of your launch team Jennifer because it has helped shape the perspective God has given me. I tried working and working (blog) and got to a point where it seemed actual people were cut out of my life. Though at the time I thought that was what I needed (I am sure there are times we do need to to get alone) the prolonged isolation was actually not good for me. I have been super blessed this year in some small blog groups and see Christ moving not only there but in the local church and in the schools. I was so nervous years before if I had to put my kids in public school (lived out of fear more then) but now I am looking forward to us being able to reach out to the community more. It really does overflow my cup when I remember to love and give and connect. Blessings to you and thanks for sharing this message.

    • Oh Meghan … So glad to hear a bit of your story here. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Ruth

    I think taping quarters to the candy machine is a great idea! I never would have thought of it on my own.
    I think I will also linger more on compliments and on the praise of God’s word this week. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Mary

    Thank you for pointing us in the direction we need to go. More happiness, more reaching outside of ourselves and more Jesus.

  • Jennifer,
    What a great tip: Lingering 🙂 Thank you!

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  • Tara Ulrich

    As a giver, I loved this post. It’s so true.

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  • Connie Brown

    I’m going to give this post to my sister. She lost her husband in a short battle with cancer the first of the year. Hoping she can use some of your ideas to get her through her dark days. Thanks jenn

  • I love the concept of lingering. Thank you for sharing. I need to get better at lingering.

  • I love the random acts of kindness list! Will be printing that. : )

  • Susan

    How many hearts can I put on this post? I love it so very much. And, the ideas are awesome. I am sharing it EVERYWHERE! (((xo))) P.S. Did you give away any Spritz cookies? 😉

  • Thank you for sharing these pics, and your journey to find happiness. Inspiring post, once again. Happy Wednesday!!! Megs

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  • Julie Loos

    I love this post! So many great ideas to bless others!

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  • blessing others is God’s way of blessing us( the only way to really live.) thank you, Jennifer.

  • I’d say a Random Acts of Kindness Day beats the beach!

  • Katharine Barrett

    I love the random acts of kindness list! Can I just say if you do write the book on beach sand, I am more than willing to be your research assistant! I’ll work for ocean breaks! (It’s snowing here)

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for the random acts of kindness list and the video about lingering–delightful, creative ways to boost our happiness. Your book is in my RASP stack–Read As Soon As Possible. Looking forward to living with a focus on happiness as I soak up your wisdom!

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  • Thank you for reminding me of what I already knew, but haven’t been practicing enough of.

  • Kindness is such a gentle force with a big, strong impact. Love this!

@ChadRAllen Thank YOU! I pinned a lot of your content this afternoon, and will be recommending your blog again and again. So good!