Children all over the world make lists of what they want as gifts during the holiday season. This habit often follows them into adulthood. At any given moment, most people have a running list of things that they are sure would make them happy if they were to receive them.
However, the famous prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi is a reminder that "it is in giving that we receive." Modern psychologists agree. There is a significant correlation between having a sense of well-being and overall happiness and giving to others. If you want to explore this concept more thoroughly, look for ways to enrich the lives of the people around you through cultivating a habit of generosity.
A financial gift is the simplest way to embrace generosity. Whether you pay for someone else's coffee, hand some cash to a homeless person or donate to your favorite nonprofit organization, you are likely to feel an immediate mood boost. Human beings are communal creatures, so it makes sense that participating in generosity with others taps into that natural connection.
When it comes to charitable donations, don't just give indiscriminately. It's important to find ethical organizations that make it clear where your donation goes. There are several key factors to look for when evaluating an organization's trustworthiness:
- Transparent financial reporting
- Proof of making a quantifiable difference
- Willingness to admit and rectify mistakes
- High standards for partner organizations
If funds are sparse, that doesn't mean that you don't get to participate in giving. You can derive the same sense of happiness by offering your time. There are likely hundreds of organizations in your city that rely heavily on the labor of volunteers to ensure their nonprofits run smoothly. In fact, the most challenging part of giving your time may be narrowing your options!
Serving others is a great way to get the whole family involved. Children can learn from an early age that volunteering is a fun, rewarding use of their time. It may also bring you closer as you work together to make a difference in your community.
Giving to other people is addictive. Once you start acting more generously, you may find that you eagerly seek out more opportunities to do so. Your generosity is likely to be noticed by others, too. If you have ever donated to a charitable organization, you may notice that you get more mail, emails or calls from related groups seeking a donation.
At first, you may donate happily to these nonprofits. Stay aware of your reaction to receiving these requests, though. If you find yourself merely volunteering out of habit or giving due to a sense of obligation, it is easy to become resentful rather than joyful. It's ok to set a boundary that you only give if you can do so cheerfully and with an open heart.
The best way to ensure that you are giving out of joy is to make your generosity intentional. Make financial donations a specific part of your budget. You can choose a few organizations to support on a monthly basis. Alternatively, you may keep up with groups that do work you are particularly passionate about and spend your allotted budget on those with the most pressing needs at the time. The more attention you pay to where your time and money are going each month, the greater the positive effect on your well-being is likely to be.
Many people of faith are interested in helping others. Giving is more than just a nice thing to do for others, though. It can have as many benefits for the giver as it does for the receiver. The next time you find yourself listing the things you want, consider also what you have to give.