“Happiness … consists in giving, and in serving others” – Henry Drummond. These words ring so true to me, for it is in the practice of giving that we also gain so much.
As a five-year-old, I remember my mom teaching our family about generosity. Every year we collected money for City of Hope, an organization committed to cancer research. At the time I had no idea what was really going on and when she took the money our family collected and gave it away, I was shocked. As we continued to do our part for charity each year, a new belief emerged around giving. Whenever we went out to dinner I would ask my dad for a nickel to put in the charity box for Jerry Lewis. I had that practice of generosity as a kid and over time I lost it.
Fast forward to my adult life. Even today, I have found maintaining the habit around giving to be challenging. Despite the challenge, generosity is a core value that I have chosen to cultivate. I believe that generosity is about giving, showing loving kindness, going out of your way for another even when you do not want to or it is inconvenient; it is a trade-off of time and resources.
Through the ups and downs of my life and income, I developed the belief where I asked myself, “if I do not have money or time for myself, how can I give any away?” My view shifted when I had a great business year- my best ever to that date. I had an inner nudge to give away money to a neighbor in need and I did. It was the best feeling in the world to be able to help her financially. As a result, our friendship deepened and was forever altered.
Afterward, I made a conscious choice to practice generosity in my adult life and give back to honor others. Whether I am giving my time to a youth program that is close to my heart, inviting friends in need to dinner, practicing extra kindness toward someone that may not otherwise be noticed, donating money or choosing a cause as a family to support a need within the community, it is when I realize all I am gaining by flexing my generosity muscle.
Why is the practice of generosity good for you?
1. Generosity improves our sense of well-being. Giving to others produces positive feelings in the giver. Scientists believe that feel good endorphins are released when we help others. Helping others and providing support decreases stress levels and activates areas in the brain associated with pleasure.
2. Giving connects us to others. When we do nice things for others, we build trust and strengthen our sense of community. Research supports the fact that having positive social interactions with others fosters better mental and physical health.
3. Generosity fosters gratitude. Acts of generosity spark feelings of gratitude in both the giver and recipient. Studies have found that practicing and nurturing gratitude in daily living is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness.
4. Giving creates a ripple of change. Giving within our community inspires others to give. When a recipient benefits from someone’s acts of kindness they are more likely to use their sense of gratitude to give to others in the future. Generosity is contagious.
Generosity requires a leap of faith. What is one thing you can do this week to practice generosity? I look forward to hearing all the good things that happen by flexing your generosity muscle.