The Secret to Sustainable Happiness is Giving Back

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Photo by Edu Lauton.

Research shows that giving back is good for our mental health.

hat if giving to the greater good was good for you?

Why is it when we give back we instantly feel better?

There is something rewarding about giving to others versus ourselves.

We often hear that the getting is in the giving.

When we focus out we get a break from what consumes us in our daily life.

We get a chance to step outside of ourselves and make a difference in someone else’s life.

I have been a generous person most of my life and have found happiness in giving to people.

Sustainable happiness is linked to giving back.

In one study, researchers asked participants to spend $5 on themselves or someone else over a period of five days.

The participants who spent money on other people showed continued joy and sustained happiness from the first day to the last day.

When we give back something happens in our bodies that we have no control over.

Our brain’s pleasure and reward centers activate and we get a boost of feel-good endorphins.

Oxytocin, the pleasure hormone or the “love hormone” gets released.

This hormone impacts the way we bond and create emotional responses such as trust, relaxation and empathy.

When we give to others it gives us an opportunity to build a new schema of the world and how we relate.

Over-giver or Giving Back?

There is a difference between giving back and over-giving.

Over-giving depletes us and leaves us feeling emotionally exhausted.

When we over-give we aren’t taking care of ourselves or our needs.

We may feel resentful, depressed, angry, or sad.

Over-giving can come from an unhealthy place where we want to be loved, approved or accepted.

We may find it uncomfortable to “receive” from others or ask for help.

This way of being doesn’t really serve us and forces us to live in a toxic cycle of distorted thoughts and prolong depression.

Giving back comes from a place of unconditional generosity.

We aren’t really seeking to “get” anything from it except the joy that may result.

Why we give.

Science has confirmed three theories on why we give.

  1. Altruism. — We give because we like being of service to the public such as feeding the homeless and care about making an impact.
  2. Warm glow. — We give because we get pleasure out of deciding how much value to give and to whom.
  3. Status or social value. — We give because we like the idea of increasing our social status and want to be viewed as wealthy, powerful or generous.

Knowing why we give can help us to discern what truly motivates us.

It can also help to bring awareness to unconscious insecurities or unhealthy thoughts that drive us to give from an empty place.

We can learn how to build a healthy relationship to the culture of giving back and also to ourselves.

Simple ways to give back.

  1. Gratitude. — A thank you can go a long way to the stranger who serves you your coffee in the mornings or to your loved ones who just need to feel appreciated.
  2. Time. — Give your time to someone. This may be to help a neighbor with a task or listen to a friend who needs to vent.
  3. Compliment. — Complimenting someone can have a huge impact on their self-esteem and their day! Give someone an honest compliment on what you love, admire or like about them from their fashion sense to their practical way of thinking.
  4. Unexpected cards in the mail. — Is there someone you have been thinking of sending a card to? Check out the card section of your local stationary store and grab a card for someone. Write some words of wisdom, love and send it off!
  5. Gifts. — Give a small token of gratitude through a gift. Maybe it’s buying someone’s coffee or getting lunch for a friend. Give within your means.
  6. Teach. — What do you have expertise in? This doesn’t have to be a skill or work trade. It can be knowledge in gardening, motherhood, parenting, saving money, you get the idea. Perhaps you can host a free workshop somewhere and give back to your community some golden nuggets of wisdom.

Giving back is a practice that we can consistently come back to create long-term sustainable happiness.

Go with your heart and see where you feel called to give today.

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here:

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