This blog is first in our series relating to the 10 Keys to Happier Living which reflects on how giving can boost our health and wellbeing.
In this time of ‘lock down’ I’ve been reflecting on a number of things, not least my own health and wellbeing. Talking to colleagues, family and friends we have started to share more about what is important to us, what we are grateful for and during these challenging times, what gives us joy. Often, it’s the very simple things that surface:
- Having the time to have family meals together, eating, talking and reflecting on the day
- Being able to connect to family and friends more frequently than perhaps we would ordinarily
- Taking part in collective activities with family, friends and work colleagues – who knew that ‘Virtual Pub Quiz’ would take off in the way that it has. It’s become a highlight of the week for many.
- Having more time to do the things that help us to have space to be ‘mindful’, gardening, walking, painting, other household tasks that we’ve put off
- Letting our minds wonder
One of the things I notice in myself is that ‘giving’ brings me happiness. Over the years, I notice that I get that warm fuzzy feeling when I give, more so than when I receive. It’s no surprise once I began to look into why that it is….. ‘common sense’ in so many ways and as I remind myself frequently, it only becomes ‘common sense’ once you understand more.
What’s the science behind it?
There is much written about giving and generosity. Researchers have had rich debates about the extent to which humans are innately generous, a great deal of research strongly suggests that generosity has deep evolutionary, biological and developmental roots. Much of the research also suggest that human generosity might be deeply embedded in human behaviour and plays a vital role in our personal well-being and our survival. A systematic review (Allen.S 2018) draws together some of the key research findings and highlights:
- Positive effects on givers e.g. wellbeing
- Individual factors linked to generosity e.g. feelings of empathy, compassion
- Social and cultural drivers e.g. expectations of reciprocity, having strong social networks may influence generosity, parenting can cultivate generosity
The act of giving and charitable behaviour comes in many forms and during COVID19 there have been so many examples:
- Tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of volunteers coming forward to help those that are being shielded – offering to phone those that are isolated, undertaking tasks such as shopping and picking up essentials
- Colonel Tom Moore 100th Birthday sponsored walk to raise money for the NHS
- Different businesses donating food and gifts to front line staff
- Local communities coming together to support key workers
- Free resources and learning being made available to individuals working from home
All of us ‘give’ in some way. Often, it will be simple things, kind words, helping someone out when you notice they are struggling, random acts of kindness to friends, families and colleagues. Doing something for complete strangers seems to be the ‘norm’ in our current COVID19 bubble and the world feels a better place for it. It seems now more than ever we need to be generous in our thinking as well as in the way we behave. A study into the benefits of charitable behaviour (Anik. L et al. 2009) highlights that people that give more are happier and happier people tend to give more. Feels like a virtuous circle to me.
Looking for inspiration
Action for Happiness https://www.actionforhappiness.org provides ideas, insights, training (e-mail based coaching programme) and resources. Something for everyone if you are looking for some inspiration. What will you give today?
S, May. The Science of Generosity, White Paper, Greater Good Science Centre 2018 https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Generosity-FINAL.pdf
Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior Anik, L., Aknin, L B., Norton, M I., Dunn, E W. 2009 https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/10-012_0350a55d-585b-419d-89e7-91833a612fb5.pdf
HWBInspiration co-founders, Su & Claire, are grateful to our Associate HWBI Ninjas for sharing their knowledge, skill and insights.