Thursday, 3 July 2014

Generosity changes the heart

There are not many things as powerful as generosity. It doesn't just bless the person receiving, but it also changes the heart of the giver. It is not a surprise that Jesus says it is better to give than to receive!

Being able to give your time or money is a privilege. An act of selfless kindness changes our hearts and our capacity to love and be loved. We were not created to function alone, but to find joy in community and helping each other. It gives us an opportunity to escape from the world of me me me and see the world from someone else's perspective. It forces us to leave our stress and worries at the door and focus our attention on the needs of someone else.

Then why is it so hard for us? Maybe it's due to our overcrowded schedules? Thinking we can do more and fit more in. When will we stop and think about quality of life and not quantity?

Maybe we think that giving will drain us or if we start giving our time that people will take advantage of us?

Maybe we should make more time to find a need of someone close to us and help? Maybe make a commitment or a random act of kindness? But I am convinced that somewhere in our week we can find a need and fill it. Listening to a friend for 30min, babysitting or making a meal for a stressed friend or even volunteering an hour a week somewhere.

Generosity is not charity, it's seeing the need when no one else does.

I recently read an article about being happy and living longer and this is what it says about giving:

"One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities – such as concerts and group dinners out – brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people?

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested."

Also the following was very exciting for me to read:

"The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbours, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age."

So it is scientifically proven that being generous and helping others will make us happier and live longer. Maybe it's time to put our fears aside, jump into action and discover the joys of giving!

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give - Sir Winston Churchill

Picture credits: misadventuresblog and stewardship
Article credit: thespiritscience

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