This time last year we were optimistic that in 2021 the world would be back to “normal”, but here we are adjusting to our new normal and hoping that 2022 will get us even closer. One thing our new normal has made obvious for us is that kindness and generosity are the underlying foundation for our overall well-being.
For many it’s been the glue that held us together during these unprecedented times. But we are not just talking about fluffy feel-good messaging. Science actually proves that the old saying “it’s better to give than to receive” is 100% true, one of the basic ways to feel better is to simply give and be kind.
Good Vibes. Using fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates regions of the brain that are stimulated during other positive and pleasurable interactions, like social connections, enjoying good food, and sex. Acts of generosity release endorphins, oxytocin (the happy hormone), and the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, all four of which are responsible for creating good feelings.
Stress Less. Giving and showing kindness in any form—even to yourself—can also improve overall health and lead to decreased stress, while reducing anxiety and depression. The release of our happy hormones is also connected to the physical function of our cardiovascular system and has been shown to decrease blood pressure.
The hippies were right—what you put out into the world comes back to you (good or bad). There is a connection between what one gives and what one receives in return. The concept that generosity is rewarded further down the line is grounded in the idea that exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that in turn strengthens relationships and social ties. The act of giving not only makes people feel closer to one another but also leads them to feel more positive and creates a greater sense of community and social connection.
Finally, giving cultivates gratitude. Amazingly, being gracious has been linked to greater optimism, increased motivation, and an improved sense of overall well-being. Generosity doesn’t have to come in the form of monetary donations—volunteering time, energy, knowledge, or simply a kind message are all great ways of giving and can produce the same positive results.
As we wrap up the year, we challenge you to commit to 30 days of giving, remembering that giving can come in many forms. Here are some ideas to kick-start your challenge.
- Start or end your day by writing down three things you are grateful for. Self care is also an act of kindness.
- Smile and say hello to people you pass—yes, strangers too.Everyone can benefit from a friendly greeting.
- Pay it forward. At the coffee shop or drive-thru pay for the person behind you.
- Volunteer one hour of your time to a local group or charity.
- Leave positive comments on friends’ and strangers’ social media posts.
- Think about someone from your past that you’re grateful for. A teacher. A coach. A mentor. Write them a note and tell them why you are thankful for them.
- Make eye contact when you say thank you to customer service staff.
- Donate to the food bank or local shelter.
Don’t be surprised if a single act of generosity is able to kick-start a wave of giving that will provide countless benefits to all those who are touched by it.