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Living a Giving Life: The Psychological Benefits of Generosity

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As the holiday season approaches, we are constantly surrounded by the message that we should be buying gifts to make others happy. Some of us may get carried away with this material aspect and lose site of the act of generosity. Generosity is a wonderful concept, but interestingly enough, many people are not aware of all of the benefits that being generous provides. Although we can easily define generosity, it is important to understand the deeper and more meaningful aspects of giving.

What Does Generosity Really Mean to You?

Take a moment to reflect on your definition of generosity.

Your definition will likely involve benefiting others or perhaps making a difference in someone’s life. While these are definitely important components involved in generosity and giving, did you think to include yourself in this definition or consider yourself the main element in the concept? Studies show that the person who benefits the most from giving is actually the person who performs the act of generosity.

Generosity has the potential to promote and support a healthy lifestyle, reduce stress and negative emotions, and even do things as incredible as increasing longevity. The self-benefit of giving may be surprising considering that giving is generally understood as a selfless act. It is important to acknowledge and accept the personal benefits of generosity in order to open ourselves up to the many advantages of living a giving life. The knowledge of these benefits allows us to operate in ways that reflect this deeper meaning and, ultimately, make a greater impact on the lives of others.

Generosity as a Confidence Builder

When it comes to confidence, many individuals are drawn to the idea of receiving compliments, praise, good scores or even ‘likes’, in the age of social media, as a confidence booster. However, research studies show that being gratified and appreciated for giving has a greater and more positive effect on our confidence. Being in a state of giving also allows us to feel more at peace and connected to our own personal value system. Generosity allows us to feel more than just the joy we experience when we are giving, but also enables us to feel like a valued component in the lives of others, and this ultimately heightens our self-esteem. Being generous has been proven to decrease feelings of depression and isolation. In times of hardship, acts of giving are seen as highly effective in rebuilding emotional and psychological strength. In giving, we ourselves are gifted with a stronger sense of positivity and value of self.

Gratitude and Generosity

Often times, in the process of understanding what we are grateful for, we can better understand what we truly value. This understanding of our personal values cultivates a desire to share the feelings of gratitude through giving. A more developed value system allows us to give in a way that is more personal and meaningful and encourages the recipient to do the same.

It is psychologically proven that giving is contagious, and the more we see others giving, the more inclined we are to apply this action to our own lives. This beautiful chain reaction reminds us of the ability we have to make a significant difference in the life of another, our own life and in the lives of those who witness our generosity. We are passing on feelings of happiness, joy, value, self-confidence, self-awareness and so much more. Don’t be afraid to be the ‘trend setter’ when it comes to generosity, only positive outcomes lie ahead.

4 Ways to Develop a Deeper Sense of Generosity

Throughout the holiday season, we are given numerous opportunities to be generous; however, giving is not limited to the holidays. Here are 4 simple ways to be generous throughout the year that will assist you in developing a richer sense of happiness, value and purpose:

  • Volunteer in your community
  • Make a meal for family or a close friend
  • Find a charity and donate to it
  • Write a letter to someone you appreciate

Try out these simple acts of kindness that reflect generosity, and even add a few of your own. It is truly a wonderful feeling to experience the joy of giving when we understand all that generosity entails. Remember that generosity is not something that is measured or defined by a dollar amount, material quality or quantity. I encourage you, especially during the holiday season, to consider your interpretations of generosity. Understanding the mental and physical health benefits that generosity provides can expose new ways in which you can act with generosity. Let this new perspective guide you in experiencing and sharing the true joy of living a giving life.

 

Image: Micah Esguerra on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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