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Give happy: Gretchen Rubin says philanthropy can spur a cycle of happiness

September 17, 2014 By John Allen

If you’re happy and you know it, do something good for someone else. If you’re not happy and you want to get there, do the same.

According to happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, philanthropic behavior can be the key to increasing one’s own positive feelings.

Photo: Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

“Research shows that happy people have a greater interest in the problems of others,” Rubin says. “And the more we give to others, the happier we are. Philanthropy creates a kind of virtuous cycle.”

The author of the best-selling Happiness Project and of the popular blog of the same name, Rubin brings inspiration in her keynote address during the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Women’s Philanthropy Council, supported by the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

Rubin has become the face of happiness in America — quite literally, since her smiling mug appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of Live Happy magazine in February 2014.

For her book and blog, Rubin has researched how people become and stay happy, often trying out suggested strategies. A persistent question: Is the pursuit of happiness inherently narcissistic?

“In a world that’s full of suffering, it can seem selfish to be happy, or even to try to be happy,” she says. “But studies show that the opposite is true. Happier people have more energy for giving and more attention for others. They’re less isolated.”

Rubin’s latest work, due out in the spring, has been around habits and how to change them — how to break bad habits and establish good ones. The material will form the basis for a new book, Better Than Before.