The act of giving
The winter season often conjures joyful spirits. Sometimes though, this festive time can remind us what or whom we are without. 2016 has been a tumultuous year across the globe; all the more important, perhaps for genoristy in every capacity.
“My friends know that it’s not a happy time for me”, says ‘Dusty’, an Australian retiree who lost his wife two days before Christmas in 2013, his latestes loss in a series of loved ones deaths.
Dusty could so easily justify turning into someone who resents the Holiday season, given his experience of loss during it. He discovered instead a new way to celebrate them: the act of giving.
He went to the supermarket, bought 20 turkeys and gave them to his local food bank. The next year he bought a few more. This year, he ordered a palette of 324 turkeys, and had them delivered directly to the food bank's warehouse. They will make 2,000 holiday meals for people in need.
Whether Dusty is conscious of it or not, his generous giving over the years is both selfless and selfish. He’s giving out of a desire to help others and yet every time he gives, he’s helping himself too.
Generosity improves our moods, outlook on life and how we evaluate our own happiness. In one study, the Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia evaluated the happiness of employees who received a bonus, looking in particular at how they spent it. Regardless of the size of their bonus, people’s happiness correlated directly with how much of it they had shared with others.
Giving has a strong effect on our outlook on life because it activates our pleasure and reward centers. We get the benefit as the giver, as if we’re the ones receiving the good deed. It releases hormones like oxytocin, which lowers stress and makes us feel more connected to others and inspired to give again. Even witnessing someone else’s random act of kindness can trigger this response and spur others to pay it forward.
Many see our ability to be happy being based on reaching specific goals. The truth is, happiness is an inside job and has nothing to do with life circumstances. Like Dusty, we can utilize generosity for more than making the world a better place. It can act as ‘medicine’ to carry ourselves through tough moments, seasons and even years.
Rather than giving being limited to the Holiday season, we may be able to improve moments for others and us throughout the year by being altruistic. Generosity, in whatever form is to have nothing to loose and everything to gain.
Article by Julien Adler
International Executive Coach • Leadership Trainer • Speaker • Facilitator
Silicon Valley • Los Angeles
Edited by Daniella Down