You may have read that giving makes you happy—so here’s how to make it work for you, and why it works in the first place…
Try and remember the last time you felt happy, peaceful, and worthy. What did you do to feel that? Was it when you achieved something or bought something really cool for yourself? Or was it when you gave something to someone—be it your time, a gift, or charity? While it may be the former, chances are it was more of the latter…
Most of us become part of the rat race sooner or later, and have it instilled into us from the start—you are “successful” when you get that flashy car, that 5-bedroom home with a pool, and manage to send your kids to private instead of public school. You are “successful” when you get the diamonds or that vacation in the Bahamas. But once you get all that, will you be happy?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, for there is no clear relationship between happiness and wealth. Once your basic needs are satisfied (i.e., you have food, shelter, a reasonable bank balance in the name of security, and love), you are as happy as you will be even with millions in the bank. Basically, seeking happiness via accumulation of wealth is an irrational process, and yet most of us do just that! So what can make us happy then?
Obviously being in love makes you happy, as does having a healthy family and pets. Travelling makes you happier, and so does good food or a great movie. Being positive and thinking good thoughts makes you happy, as does being a grateful person. Productivity and achievements also make you happy. But the simplest way you can increase your happiness quotient is by increasing your giving quotient…
How Does Giving Make You Happy?
By giving, we do not mean giving away everything you have and living the life of an ascetic. It doesn’t mean that you should give so much that you don’t have enough for yourself. But by opening out your heart even a tiny sliver at a time, you can help yourself by helping others. It could be the gift of time, or the gift of food, or even buying generous presents for friends, family, and strangers. Donations and charities work, too, even if you can spare just the bare minimum. The idea is to let the world in and increase your empathy and generosity levels. Here’s how giving works to make you a better person…
1. Giving Makes You Happy
There may be no correlation between wealth and happiness, but there is definitely a connection between giving and happiness. Studies have shown that giving money to someone in need made people feel happier than spending that money on buying something for themselves. Other studies have found that by being kinder, people tend to be happier. The reason for this is that altruistic behavior activates regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social reach, and bonding—thus creating that warm halo effect within. Giving can trigger the release of the happy hormones too—invoking the same endorphin high you get after exercise, sex, and breastfeeding.
2. Giving Makes You Healthy
Being generous can also make you live healthier and longer, according to many researchers and experts. The reason behind this could be that helping people and being there for them lowers your stress levels, blood pressure, and anxiety. This means if you are the guy always ready to help out, you will not just be happier and healthier, but also be around longer. Being kind not only helps others but also helps to heal you from within.
3. Giving Makes You Connect & Bond With Others
When you do a good turn to someone, it is likely to come back to you through the same person, or through someone else. It’s a ripple effect and the reason why we often say that good things happen to good people. Good things happen to good people not because they “should” but because good people work towards them. When you are kind to others, you tend to form a connection with them, and they reciprocate the bond in turn. Feeling connected with others is essential for a happy and healthy life, and for good mental balance as well.
4. Giving Makes You Feel Gratitude
When you give to others, you first feel thankful for having enough to be able to help others out. These feelings of blessedness and the realization of all that you have in the form of friends, family, achievements, and even finances gives rise to feelings of optimism, wellbeing, and of course, happiness. And when you express this gratitude to someone, it makes you feel closer to them as well.
5. Giving Can Be Contagious
When you see someone being generous, you will find yourself trying to do some good as well—inspired by the selfless actions of others. So even when one person in the community steps forward with kindness, it spreads goodness in a gentle wave and soon there will be more empathy, generosity, and kindness pouring in. So remember to step up to spread the happiness within and outwards.
Whatever good you can do, you should. Not only will you brighten someone’s day—but your day will seem that much brighter as well.
Now the point is, does giving always work to make you happier? Frankly, no. Giving has to be voluntary, feel comfortable, and make you feel like you did something worthwhile. If instead, you are feeling a sense of discord within, the giving you are doing won’t do you or anyone any good. The same way we need to practice and hone our skills in our professional and personal life, we need to fine-tune our sense of giving to make it work to its fullest possible extent.
5 Ways To Make Giving Work For You
If giving is making you feel a bit of a fool, taken advantage of, or depleted, you need to stop and rearrange that giving spirit in you into something that works to make you feel happy as well. The idea is to give till it feels great, not till it starts to hurt!
- Give To What You Are Passionate About: There are people who want to do something for orphans in Africa and yet there are those who would rather give their time and money to the veterans back home. Some will care about animals, some about the oceans, and some about the water crisis in developing countries. Thing is, they are all good causes and it is natural for you to feel more strongly about something over something else. Don’t apologize for where your heart wants to give: follow it and make sure you give to the cause closest to you.
- Give When You Want, Where You Want & How You Want: Being cajoled and publicly pressured into giving does not feel like charity and will not make you feel good afterward. Make sure you choose your cause in your own good time and refuse to be pressured into doing something you do not want to, even if it causes strife between you and a friend.
- Give Only What You Can Afford To Spare: In an effort to do good to others, there’s no point in harming yourself and your needs. You cannot feed the hungry or clothe the naked without a full belly and clothes on your back. So do good but remember to be good to yourself also. While unnecessary wealth and accumulation isn’t a healthy way to live, starving yourself to give to others might just be worse.
- Give Where Aims & Policies Are Transparent: Giving to charity isn’t all that it is chalked up to be. If you donate, say, $100 a month to a place, a part of your donations will be used to run the offices, marketing networks, and other overheads of that organization. So make sure you know where your money is going and why, before you sign that check.
- Give Time If Money Is A Problem: Giving doesn’t always have to be about money—if your bank balance isn't letting you be generous, give the gift of your time. Spend time with the elderly or the veterans, volunteer at the local youth or animal shelter; go on a tree-planting or beach-cleaning drive. There’s so much good to be done, just not enough man hours around.
Giving is always a good thing—especially if you go about it in an informed and intelligent manner. As long as it is done with good intent, out of free will, and in a balanced way, it will bring you both happiness and karmic wealth. So give with all your heart, after having thought it through.
And do share your giving story with us in the comments section below to enrich our world and spread the happiness.