It’s a well-documented fact that giving to others can make you feel happier. In several studies, participants displayed greater happiness and life satisfaction after giving money to a charitable cause. But giving isn’t always about money or gifts. The true art of giving is an act of unconditional love.
We should give because we want to share love, not because we want to receive anything in return.
If you are giving with the expectation of receiving something in return (even a “thank you”), you are indirectly limiting and discounting the true act of of your kindness. It is when we don’t expect anything in return that we find those we give to appreciating the act far more than when we do it with an underlying expectation.
Giving is also linked to lower levels of stress and increased gratefulness. People with chronic diseases have even demonstrated better pain management when they were actively giving back in some way. If you’re looking for a worthy way to better your life, the answer may come in the form of generosity and bettering the lives of others.
Start a Campaign to Pay it Forward
Once you have received an act of kindness, you’re often prompted to do a similar act for someone else. In one study, museum visitors were either told to pay what they wished, or told that someone else had paid their admission and given the option to pay the admission of other future visitors. People regularly gave more in the pay it forward model.
Consider the fact that one small act, like paying the toll for the person behind you, could have ongoing ripples. Do small things for others that they can easily pass on to someone else and you can help create a kinder community.
Really Listen When People Talk to You
Sometimes you can act generously without offering anything tangible. By simply listening closely when a friend, family member, loved one, or even a stranger is talking, you can offer them something extremely precious — your time and attention. So be generous with your awareness. When your kids are talking about their day, put down your phone or look away from what you are doing and give them your full attention. When your partner or friend need to vent about something difficult in their life, lend a compassionate ear.
Show Appreciation and Admiration
Another way to be generous without offering anything tangible is to give praise and complements. Showing your appreciation and admiration doesn’t cost you anything and it can offer a shower of gifts to the recipients. So be generous with your praise and makes someone’s day by telling them they look nice or complementing their new hair cut. When someone in your office accomplishes a difficult task, mention it. If you were part of the project, give specific praise to your partner and let them take the spotlight. Making someone feel better can usually make you feel even better than if you had received the compliment yourself.
Put Meaningful Causes on Your Calendar
Happier people are more likely to give to others, and the act of giving makes people happier. This creates a cyclical effect that you can ride continuously if you make an effort to act charitably on a regular basis. It’s easy to get “too busy” to participate in a charity event if you squeeze activities in when you have blank spots on your agenda. Instead, actively block out periods of time for charitable activities and refuse to give up these chunks of time to anything else so you can nurture your happiness on a regular basis.
Clean Out Your Closets
If your finances are too tight to make a monetary donation to a charitable cause, give from what you have. Clean out your closets and eliminate anything you don’t frequently use or deeply love. Donate your unwanted items to a charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Not only will you get the psychological boost of having done a good deed, you’ll benefit from the fresh clean space in your closet as well.
Use Your Hobby to Give to Others
If you’re an introvert who doesn’t enjoy participating in big charity events, you can put your talents to use in the quiet comfort of your own home. Use a hobby that you already enjoy as a way to give to others. If you love to crochet, make scarves for the homeless in winter. If painting is your hobby, offer to make backdrops for school plays or paint a mural for a daycare or hospital.
Consider the activities you already love and ask yourself how the products from those hobbies can benefit someone else. The impact is twofold because you get to indulge in a fun craft and help someone else.
Double What You’re Already Cooking
Giving to others doesn’t always have to involve a major charity. You can actually reap greater social benefits if you give to a personal connection. Some studies have even shown that giving offers a bigger boost to happiness when it involves someone you know rather than an anonymous recipient. Since you’re probably cooking for yourself or your family already, try doubling the recipe and making extra for someone else. Whether you’re taking canned pickles to a neighbor, giving cookies to the mailman, or carrying a frozen casserole to a bedridden friend, a bit of home cooked goodness can have a big impact on others.
Amassing wealth and success often becomes so consuming that we forget the greater good that we can put forth for the sake of others. Make an effort to give often and you’ll feel happier as a result.
If you’re struggling to figure out where giving can fit in your life, our life coaching can help you pursue a better work/life balance and fit this beneficial pursuit in your life.