We’ve been focused the last two weeks on how to get. More sleep, more gratitude. This week, it’s all about how to GIVE. When you give, you really get – that’s why giving feels so good. Scientists can’t actually find anything on the planet that makes us happier when we do it, in the long run, than giving. And all we really want is to get happy-and stay happy. See, buying new kicks or taking a trip with friends, even eating a lot of sugar feel really great in the moment and for a little while after, but the rush you get from any of those things doesn’t last. We end up wanting more and more of those things, because they only make us happy for a hot minute, and then we need more to maintain that feeling. And we can’t. Trust me, those scientists have been busy studying this for years, and things just don’t keep us happy. But a lifestyle based on service and giving does. It’s like eggs and wheat toast with fruit for breakfast, versus gummy bears, skittles and coke. The eggs make you feel steady and great for hours, while the candy doesn’t fill you up, and you keep crashing and needing more to stay satisfied. But we’ll get to diet in a couple of weeks. For now, just realize that when you give, you get a lot happier. And the feeling lasts.
Your Pax Mantra for the week: If happy is the way you wanna live, you really gotta give.
Here’s how to get your giving on:
1.Make random acts of kindness a part of your daily routine. Do you usually only do something nice for someone because they did something nice for you? Or because they are a friend or family member? Or because you owe them a favor? Well, try doing something nice for someone just because you can. Without any expectation of a reward or even acknowledgement, which is when someone recognizes you for something. It’s even more awesome when you don’t know the person you’re doing this nice thing for. I was passing by a parking meter the other day, and saw a car about to get a ticket because the meter was expired. I ran over, reached into my bag, pulled out a quarter, and slid it into the slot just as the ticket was being issued. I felt almost like a superhero, Miss Park-man, saving cars from the impending doom of tickets! I still feel good when I remember that day, and every time I imagine how the owner of the car would have felt walking over to find that blue and white paper peeking out from under the windshield wiper. Probably how I usually feel: terrible. Just knowing I helped save someone from sadness or irritation or anger makes me feel amazing, every time I remember it, which is often because there are a lot of parking meters in this city!
2. You don’t have to give money or things to get from giving. What people really want? Your time. Because time is the most valuable resource you have. And that shows you care more than anything you could buy. It’s the only thing you can’t get more of in a day, or in a lifetime, unlike money, cars, clothes and other things. So where are some places you can give your time away and make a huge impact? Soup kitchens for the homeless are a great start. They are always looking for people to help out, and seeing how little some people have, how much they’ve suffered, how strong they are to keep fighting for life, can really inspire you to really appreciate the blessings in your life (hello gratitude!), or to stay strong through tough times, and get to the other side.
3. You haven’t gotten to be the person you are without people you look up to helping you along the way. And I’m sure you’ve learned a few things along the way too. So what if you pay that forward, and volunteer to be a big brother or sister to someone younger than you? Someone you can spend time with and support, to share what you know, to help make life fuller, better, brighter for? It’s amazing how good we feel when we know we’re helping someone else live their life better. That’s why I chose to study Positive Psychology, and why I do the work that I do, including writing this blog. So try finding out if your school, church, or community center is looking for someone like you to be a major game-changer for someone younger.
4. The adults in our lives support us big time as we get older, and teach us everything we know, so shouldn’t we support them as they get older too? Volunteering at a senior center or retirement community is a beautiful way to do that. And you’d be surprised how much fun you’ll have, and how much you’ll learn. Some of the most amazing stories I have ever heard came from my volunteer experiences with the elderly. They’ve lived incredible lives, over generations, that are so different from what we know. It’s like listening to a live movie-except that you get to ask questions about all of the characters and places and things you hear about. And then maybe write about them, or tell the stories to your friends. You’ll entertain people and keep those memories living on.
**Remember to tweet and instagram your experiences volunteering-it’ll fold into your gratitude exercises and spread the love to all of your people!