The Healing Power of Giving
Here are some of my favorite quotes about the power of giving:
“The law of giving is very simple. If you want joy, give joy. If love is what you seek, offer love. If you crave material affluence, help others become prosperous.” Deepak Chopra
“This is what life is about. It’s a chance to help and give to others.” Al Mitchell
“True happiness comes from the effort of making others happy. Give and share your love every day.” Tinku Razoria
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
One of the best ways to feel better is to give to others. The benefit is twofold. Someone is benefiting from your kindness, time, and/or generosity, and you are left feeling better. In addition, doing for others helps take the focus off of our own sorrows. I don’t see this as “charity”, but rather an understanding that we all have struggles, and to give when you can to help make someone else’s day a little brighter. Your day will be brighter too.
Psychologists are now saying that “resilience is the new happiness”. And guess what boosts resilience? Giving to others! Studies have found that people who give to others have the highest levels of resilience. The giving need not be fancy nor elaborate, time-consuming nor expensive. Some simple examples are participating in a meal delivery for someone going through a difficult time, offering to drive a child for a busy mother who is juggling schedules, or donating to the local food pantry. The possibilities are endless!
Here are some benefits of giving and why it is helpful for our mental health
- Giving serves as a distraction from our own problems
Giving to others is a distraction from our own worries and concerns. When we focus on the needs of other people and connect with them, we are for that time distracted from the difficulties of our own lives. This is not to say that we should ignore our own problems. In fact, that is definitely something to avoid. Many times when people are focused on giving to others, they do not pay sufficient attention to their own problems. So make sure that you always come back to dealing with your own problems after helping someone else.
Helping other people makes us realize that we are not alone. We are not alone in the struggles of life. Everyone has something different that they are dealing with, but everyone is dealing with something. Often when we are giving to others, we are giving to someone we perceive as being in a more difficult situation than ourselves. That is all about perception. But that perception may help you feel better about your own difficult situation.
2. Giving to others helps to build social connections
When we give to others, we are connecting with other human beings. As human beings, we are wired to be social. These social connections help to fulfill a basic human need and boost our mood. We can also form social connections by being with other people we are giving with, further fostering connections. All of these connections help to build our social support network, and this network in turn helps with resilience. And the more resilient we are, the happier lives we live. Life is filled with problems, and we are able to bounce back and feel better when we are resilient.
A study at National Institutes of Health by Jorge Moll in 2006 found that helping others activates the region in the brain that is responsible for pleasure, trust, and social connection, leading to what may be referred to as the “helper’s high”.
3. Helping others reduces stress
Helping others also benefits with stress reduction, which in turn boosts physical health. In their study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, Rachel Piferi and Kathleen Lawler found that people who gave to others had lower blood pressure, which is associated with lower stress levels.
4. Helping others fosters gratitude
One of the wonderful benefits of giving to others is that it helps foster gratitude. It helps us to be more grateful for what we have and everything that is going well in our lives. People who regularly give to others have higher levels of perceived happiness. Happiness expert Barbara Frederickson has discovered this finding in her research.
There are many different ways of giving
- Give time
Organize a food or clothing collection. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Mentor a young professional. Visit a senior center or Veteran’s Hospital. Volunteer as a Scout Leader or through a Parent Teacher Association. Serve on a township committee of interest to you.
One study found that people who volunteered more than once monthly, but less than once weekly, had were 12% more likely to report happiness than people who had not volunteered.
2. Give Resources
This does not need to be materialistic. If you have an area of knowledge or expertise, this can be shared with others. Share your knowledge or talent. Run a workshop at a local library. If you are an attorney, offer your knowledge to a domestic violence shelter or other agency. If you are a mental health professional, offer a free workshop in your community. If you are a landscaper, mow the lawn of someone who is ill or grieving. Give blood during a blood drive.
3. Give love and attention.
Visit the elderly in nursing homes. Visit a children’s hospital and read to children or play games. Sing at a Veteran’s hospital.
4. Give money or goods
Donate to a Go Fund Me page to a person needing help. Donate to the Red Cross after natural disaster.
Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin (2008) found that people who spent more money on others rather than themselves had higher levels of happiness.
So how can you put this into meaningful action?
- Think about what brings you joy. What are you good at? How can you give to others while sharing your joy, knowledge or talent?
- Remember that it does not need to be something big or take huge amounts of time. Sometimes these thoughts are what prevent people from taking the first step. So keep it simple. You can always build upon it.
- Remember that there are so many different ways to give. Which feels best for you? You may not have much money to spare, you can give your time. Or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with the demands of your daily life, but you have money, you can provide a financial donation.
- Be mindful of not using giving to others as a distraction from dealing with your own problems. You can take a break from them, but don’t neglect them.
- Your way of giving is unique to you. You can give of your time, resources, knowledge, talent, attention, love, money, or goods. Do not compare yourself to how others are giving. Do what feels good for you.