We know that loving our work makes us happier, which of course is a significant personal benefit. There’s a less obvious side effect that’s of extra importance right now, too.
When we love what we do and are happier, studies show we also are kinder and more generous. In turn, compassion and giving boost our happiness. And the cycle continues.
It’s been a tumultuous time in our country of late with a lot of anger, incivility and clashing of opinions on all types of social and political issues. Feelings of frustration, low tolerance and mistrust have been exacerbated by agenda-driven media reporting and the impersonal and flashpoint nature of the internet and social media.
But just when we may wonder if strife and cynicism are our new way of life, doesn’t overwhelming humanity swoop in to amaze us.
As the US experiences the second significant hurricane to hit its shores within a couple of weeks, countless images and stories of generosity, benevolence and heroism swoop in and astound.
There are the neighbors using their own boats and cars to help stranded people. The swanky furniture gallery that opens its doors to those in need of shelter. The pastor who swims down flooded streets to peek inside underwater cars to make sure no one is left inside. Those who travel from faraway states to do whatever they can to help. The Coast Guard, National Guard, nonprofits, police, fire, medics and residents who mobilize in heart-wrenching, mind-blowing ways to rescue people and every type of animal imaginable.
Having money and material goods doesn’t lead to happiness, but giving them away does. People who volunteer demonstrate better emotional and mental health and increased longevity. Generosity is strongly associated with health and well-being.
Here are three ways to maximize your happiness through giving:
1) Give to very specific projects.
In a 2014 study published in Science, researchers showed that when people felt they were donating directly to a very specific project or to a nonprofit where they were assured their funds wouldn’t go to overhead, they gave three times more money. Giving more makes us feel even happier.
2) Give sans strings.
When we give time or money or open our doors to those in need, we feel a whole lot better about it when we’re not expecting some type of reciprocity.
3) Give in public ways.
Our saintly side may want to keep our altruism anonymous but celebration and recognition of our donation serves as positive reinforcement that boosts our satisfaction. Allowing attention for our gift helps others act in a similar way via the bandwagon effect.
And when we are generous, the benefits extend well beyond good feelings. Generous people often tend to be successful, not just professionally, but personally too.
There are several reasons for this. People who share their time, skills and possessions are some of the happiest people in the world because they have a sense of contribution and purpose. They see their own success as a benefit for all, not just for themselves. They also tend to work hard for what they have, which makes them appreciate and value it more than those who take shortcuts to success. Generous people also find success personally because they tend to be kind and confident, and often have loyal friends and strong relationships.
Now, one doesn’t have to love what he or she does in order to be generous. But enjoying our work is one of the biggest drivers of happiness and therefore generosity and therefore success.
This ripple effect has such a tangible impact that it’s tough to resist. If you’re looking for a great way to get involved and help with the impact of Hurricane Harvey or Irma, or if you’re motivated to help with any other huge need, there are countless opportunities. Your engagement will be lasting and is likely to inspire others.
And with the 16th anniversary of 9/11 upon us, let’s remember those we lost and the tremendous acts of selflessness, sacrifice and heroism so many made in the rescue, aid and care for others.
Wishing everyone safety and the blessings of generosity all around.
P.S. One of the organizations I volunteer with is The Humane Society of The United States, which is the nation’s leading animal advocacy organization. It seeks a humane world for both people and animals.
I’ve been an animal lover since birth, and I’ve had more than the “normal” amount of pets in my house most of my life! I’ve supported and volunteered with numerous animal welfare groups, and I love how, particularly during these hurricane events, so many agencies around the country are collaborating with one another to rescue, prevent harm to, and provide medical care to thousands of farm animals, wildlife, pets and more.
The HSUS’s efforts and success always move and impress me, and its work with other organizations during and in the aftermath of these weather events has been astounding. Read more about what they and their partners are doing and how you might support their work.