Being a generous person feels good. We know from personal experience that it feels great to acknowledge another person and connect with them in a kind and helpful way. Many of us have also experienced the self-confidence and sense of purpose that comes from helping others.
But, why does giving make us feel happy? And, more importantly, how can we build giving into our everyday lives so that we can improve the world while enriching our own lives after 60?
Humans are “hardwired” to give. Why? Because giving helped our ancestors to survive. Imagine a world without insurance, food security or permanent shelter. In such a world, having strong social ties could mean the difference between life and death.
Giving became a personal survival strategy. Helping another meant that we would be more likely to be sheltered in our time of need. Nature could not explain to us the importance of cooperation. So, it did the next best thing. It made us feel happy when we give.
Giving doesn’t have to involve the transfer of “things”. Money is a recent invention after all. We can share our resources, skills, experience and wisdom. After five of more decades on this planet, we have plenty to offer!
Even taking a genuine interest in what another person is saying is an act of generosity. In fact, giving our time and unconditional love can be one of the greatest gifts of all. Studies have shown that small gifts mean just as much as large ones. Maybe there is some truth to the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” after all.
Our grandchildren may quickly forget this year’s hot toy. But, they will always remember the fishing trips that we took, the cakes that we baked and the laughter that we shared.
Helping others also has a powerful impact on our relationships with others. We are nourished, emotionally and physically, when we are a part of a community – even online groups like Sixty and Me. Giving strengthens us as individuals as it improves society as a whole. When was the last time that you gave something of yourself? Did you give financially? Or, perhaps you let a friend cry on your shoulder? Did you volunteer for a charity? Or, maybe you gave a donation to a street performer who made you smile. How did your act of generosity make you feel?
Giving is not only good for our sprit – it is also good for our health. Medical studies have shown link between our level of generosity and our physical wellbeing. People with chronic illnesses who give experience are happier, and, in many cases, healthier. Helping others can even help you to live longer.
If you combine generosity with a healthy lifestyle, you have the recipe for longevity. Can you think of a time when helping someone else reduced your own stress and worry? What would you give to live a longer and happier life?
While we have not uncovered all of the ways that generosity helps us to live longer and happier lives, there are likely several forces at play. For example, from a previous Boomerly article, we already know that gratitude is an important component of happiness.
Giving creates gratitude. When we give freely, we see the world through the eyes of others. We feel their gratitude and are enriched by it.
Generosity is the glue that bonds us to others. It connects us to friends, family and colleagues. It boosts happiness, increases health and strengthens communities. Barbara Fredrickson, in her book called “Positivity” says “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but other people’s as well. In the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”
Generosity is not a one-way street. It is contagious. When we give, we don’t just help one person – we create a virtuous cycle of generosity. When we give, we support the very concept of giving. We send a message to the world that generosity is the norm. In doing so, we help the happiness that we give one person to flow to all of their connections.
The ripple effect of our generosity flows like a river from one person to the next and the laughter that we hear in the sparkling water is the sound of nature’s approval.
On a practical level, it has never been easier to share with others. Websites like Facebook make it easy to share your kindness and consideration. And, since these sites are social by nature, our kind messages are a visible reminder to others of the importance of giving. Can you remember a time when a simple act of generosity changed your life? Has someone recently posted a message on Facebook that just made your day?
Whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity, remember that giving is more than a social obligation. It is a process that enriches the giver as much as it helps the receiver. Generosity is also a social process that feeds on itself and strengthens social connections. When you give freely, you put yourself on the path to a happier and healthier life. And, you do so in a way that makes the world a better place. What else could be better than that?
Find someone close to you to help today. Volunteer your time or money to help someone’s life. Your reward will be priceless.
Take action today and share your thoughts in the comments below. If you found this article helpful or inspiring – share it with a friend.