There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.
For it is in giving that we receive — Saint Francis of Assisi
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give — Winston Churchill
Making money is a happiness; making other people happy is a superhappiness — Nobel Peace Prize receipient Muhammad Yunus
Giving back is as good for you as it is for those you are helping, because giving gives you purpose. When you have a purpose-driven life, you’re a happier person — Goldie Hawn
And so we learn early: It is better to give than to receive. The venerable aphorism is drummed into our heads from our first slice of a shared birthday cake. But is there a deeper truth behind the truism?
The resounding answer is yes. Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.
But it’s important to remember that giving doesn’t always feel great. The opposite could very well be true: Giving can make us feel depleted and taken advantage of. Here are some tips to that will help you give not until it hurts, but until it feels great:
1. Find your passion
Our passion should be the foundation for our giving. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving. It’s only natural that we will care about this and not so much about that, and that’s OK. It should not be simply a matter of choosing the right thing, but also a matter of choosing what is right for us.
2. Give your time
The gift of time is often more valuable to the receiver and more satisfying for the giver than the gift of money. We don’t all have the same amount of money, but we all do have time on our hands, and can give some of this time to help others—whether that means we devote our lifetimes to service, or just give a few hours each day or a few days a year.
3. Give to organizations with transparent aims and results
According to Harvard scientist Michael Norton, “Giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money leads to more happiness than giving to an umbrella cause where you’re not so sure where your money is going.”
4. Find ways to integrate your interests and skills with the needs of others
“Selfless giving, in the absence of self-preservation instincts, easily becomes overwhelming,” says Adam Grant, author of Give & Take. It is important to be “otherish,” which he defines as being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight.
5. Be proactive, not reactive
We have all felt the dread that comes from being cajoled into giving, such as when friends ask us to donate to their fundraisers. In these cases, we are more likely to give to avoid humiliation rather than out of generosity and concern. This type of giving doesn’t lead to a warm glow feeling; more likely it will lead to resentment. Instead we should set aside time, think about our options, and find the best charity for our values.
6. Don’t be guilt-tripped into giving
I don’t want to discourage people from giving to good causes just because that doesn’t always cheer us up. If we gave only to get something back each time we gave, what a dreadful, opportunistic world this would be! Yet if we are feeling guilt-tripped into giving, chances are we will not be very committed over time to the cause.
The key is to find the approach that fits us. When we do, then the more we give, the more we stand to gain purpose, meaning and happiness—all of the things that we look for in life but are so hard to find.
Jenny Santi is a philanthropy advisor and author of The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories & Science Behind the Life-Changing Power of Giving
Do you want to live with contentment instead of dissatisfaction? Here is a simple yet extremely effective way to experience contentment every single day for the rest of your life.
This, however, will need some discipline on your part so you can take this technique as a road-map and practice it on a regular and sustained basis.
What are your Values?
All of human behavior stems from thoughts that one creates in one’s mind. But where do these thoughts come from? Our thoughts stem from our beliefs and attitudes which in turn stem from our values. So, values are like the roots of a person’s personality and also his life.
The funny thing is that most people are not consciously aware of their values since they simply happen to pick many of them up from their environment and the important people in their life like parents and friends besides others during their growing up years.
Since this process happens almost involuntarily, many people don’t really like or wish to possess some of their own values but feel stuck with them since they have become so deeply ingrained into their personalities.
Getting rid of them or replacing those with better values will require effort and discipline which most people tend to avoid.
The first step of the technique for achieving contentment requires you to know each one of your values. Ask yourself what your top 10 values are and then make a list of these. Don’t expect this to be a quick affair though as it will involve some soul-searching.
Even if you write something down and then change your mind about it, refresh your list of values accordingly.
The idea is to have a list that is as representative of your real values in life as possible. Doing this activity gives you a chance to revisit your values and to replace these with values you would rather be proud to possess and represent.
Remind Yourself Everyday
After you have your values list ready, put it up somewhere in your home where it will be visible to you everyday so you will be able to remember your chosen values as a guide for your behavior and thoughts for the day.
Whenever any situation comes up on any given day, remember your top values before you respond and act in the situation. If your response is consistent with your real values, you will feel good and whenever it isn’t, you will experience inner turmoil, which could be minor or major in nature according to the degree of deviation from your actual value.
Spontaneous Living is Confused Living
Most of us live life spontaneously. We often react to situations rather than respond to them. As a result of this, our actions and behaviors are not always in alignment with our real values and desires.
When we look back and reflect about such instances, there is a deep regret at times that we can’t do anything about in the present or future. What’s more, when we live spontaneously without any inner work, we have no idea about how we’ll behave in any given situation in the future either.
On the other hand, when we respond to situations (as opposed to reacting to them) after choosing the top values we hold close to our hearts, we feel in control.
At the end of the day, there is a huge amount of contentment that we experience since we channeled our behavior and actions according to our chosen values. There is no conflict or discomfort within us but only contentment about our conduct and thoughts.
Value-based Living Helps During Challenging Times
Neena was a young mother of two who would often feel frazzled while managing her home affairs and demanding children. Her stress caused her to vent her anger out on her children whenever they acted difficult.
Whenever Neena recalled these instances of angry outbursts, she felt terrible about herself since she only wanted to love her children and not have any unpleasant experiences with them. She felt helpless and didn’t know what to do to change and control the situation since it was difficult for her to manage her kids’ never-ending demands.
She tried the values list method and after a good amount of reflection came up with her top 10 values. The first among them was love. Whenever her children became demanding and she felt stressed, she saw her top value of ‘Love’ written and instantly felt calm.
She was then able to explain things to her children in a loving and calm manner without losing her temper. To her surprise, she saw how her children understood her point and did as she asked them to.
At the end of each of her days, Neena felt an amazing amount of contentment and inner peace since she had aligned her karma with her chosen values in life.
Conclusion – Contentment is the Key to Happiness
Living life is the biggest project you will ever undertake. As it is with any project, if you use a planned and well-thought-out approach, your chances of success will increase manifold.
So it is with life, rather than living life blindly, know how you want to live and then proceed on the journey of life. Inner peace and contentment will be your companions almost automatically.