I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer
Does giving make you happier?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University, wanted to settle this question with the legitimacy and rigorousness of scientific study, and after reviewing the scientific studies determined that giving improves our happiness in at least 11 ways.
- It helps you perceive other more positively.
- Fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation
- Relieves guilt, distress, or discomfort over others’ suffering.
- Encourages awareness and gratitude for your own good fortune.
- Distracts you from your own difficulties.
- Improves your view of yourself as an altruistic and compassionate person which creates confidence, optimism, and a sense of usefulness.
- Highlights your own abilities, resources, and experiences.
- Increases sense of control over your life.
- Helps you learn new skills or discover hidden talents.
- Promotes a sense of meaningfulness and value in your life.
- Starts a cascade of positive social consequences such as helping other people like you, appreciate you, and be willing to help you in your time of need.
That’s a lot of reasons! So giving makes you happier, but she wanted to know more.
Does how you give matter?
In a study she conducted, she had three groups of students. One was directed to perform 5 acts of random kindness in a day and write those events down in a journal. The other to perform 5 acts of random kindness spread out throughout the week and write those events down in a journal. The other was just asked to list various events in a journal but were not asked to perform any random acts of kindness. She discovered that yes, these random acts of kindness did increase the student’s level of happiness, but only for the group of students who performed the acts in a single day.
This study and other studies reveals that how we give can be just as important to our well-being as how often we give. Lyubomirsky recommends choosing giving activities that you enjoy, to do more giving than you normally do, and to vary how you give so that it remains fresh and new. Giving that you don’t notice or that feels like a chore may not make you very happy.
Check out Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness, for more advice on how to be happy.