A foolproof way to increase happiness

Last few days I’ve been giving my time and a bit more to an education program. The program is called Teach to Reach. Teach to reach is an academic programme in Riverside School run in order to ensure continuity in learning process for students during summer vacations to ensure regular practice and better retention and revision of concepts. In simple words volunteers teach bunch of kids as per the instructions designed by the teachers.

After spending three days with the kids, not being a teacher was an amazing experience. While I was experiencing the emotional high of my giving, I thought I should write and share so people can get A foolproof way to increase happiness.

What you are going to discover in the post :

  • What is giving?
  • Benefits of giving?
    • What I say?
    • What science says?
  • How to give?
  • Why brag about giving?

What is giving?

Giving to me is – providing your resources (financial, time, knowledge, emotional etc.) without expecting anything in return. Giving is one type of kindness, it’s one way exchange.

I’ll give you an example which I tell in all my workshops or talks. One fine day I got off the train to work in Melbourne. It was a normal day and hustle to get ahead each other in the RAT RACE was as furious as any other day. I got off and saw this gentlemen. At first sight he was looking like a normal Caucasian person on the station. People were rushing past him without paying attention to what was going on with him. Somehow that day I was destined to experience this moment of joy.

In the hustle I paused and saw this man struggle to find his way. Normally after getting off the train people are out of the station in 60 seconds by walking, running, escalator, elevator, other train whatever way they can find. Once the hustle settle down I could clearly see the person was trying to find his way to the escalator. He was blind. Most of the blind people can see more than a normal people do. They are normally pretty good with all the other four senses but at times they get lost in unfamiliar territory.

I paused and did think – Why me? There are hundreds of people just walked past him without noticing his needs. Why should I spend another 2-3 minutes directing him to his destination? What is in it for me?

I had all the selfish questions a normal human being has. But somehow I was able to conquer the ME and started thinking about WE.

I went near this gentleman and asked “Where are you heading?”

The person said “I want to get to platform 2”

“Let me help you” I said and took his hand in my hand.

The escalator was only 50 meters away and as soon as we reached, the gentleman told me “Thank you very much.” Suggesting that now he is able to look after himself and find his way.

The whole event took around five minutes maximum, but the joy of that gesture is something I feel still today after almost 8 years.

When I overcame my selfishness and helped him, I didn’t know the power of unconditional giving. It was not momentary satisfaction, it gave me lasting satisfaction for years and years to come.

Myself now in the business of making people thrive and become happier knows few benefits of giving without seeking. Giving with seeking is normally business in my terms.

Benefits of Giving:

You can also say benefits of kindness, Benefits of unconditional love and care.

What I experience:

I always experience following three benefits whenever I give unconditionally.

Good Sleep At Night: I have developed this pattern now that whenever I do good for others I savour that experience before going to sleep. It gives me the best sleep ever and just wakes me up with full of confidence next day. There might be research around this but I think savouring good experiences overall enhances your well-being.

Increases Gratitude: It makes me feel grateful for the things I have. I can contribute more money, more time, more knowledge to others without seeking anything in return. This makes me appreciate what I have as not many people can give.

Makes Life Meaningful: Kindness comes as my top value and strength in many of the psychometric assessments. And when I show deepest kindness to others without seeking, makes life meaningful. Makes it worth living for me.

In a way I would say this unconditional giving is not unconditional or without strings attached. I do it to experience the emotional joy and meaningfulness.

This is just me talking about what I feel but being a Rational individual (so that I think) I’ve explored many research papers and articles which talks about how giving increases your overall well-being.

What Science Says:

  • “Money doesn’t seem to buy quite as much happiness as many people assume,” suggests Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, where she studies happiness, adding that in experiments where people were given money and told to spend it on either themselves or others, givers were happiest afterwards.”People who donate money to charity are happier in poor and rich countries alike,” she said. “You don’t have to have a lot to experience the emotional benefits of giving.”
  • The research – by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson – also showed that money is more likely to bring happiness if you spend it on experiences, rather than material goods. Another study (by Joseph Chancellor and Sonja Lyubomirsky) has suggested that consciously living a lifestyle of ‘strategic underconsumption’ (or thrift) can also lead to well-being. So if you really want enhance your well-being – and as long as your basic material needs are satisfied – don’t try to accumulate money in your bank account, as that is going to be left behind when you leave.
  • Thanks to fMRI technology, researchers are able to see brain activity when certain acts are taken and in a study on charitable giving when people donated to a worthy cause, the midbrain region of the brain lit up. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings (food and sex) and pleasure rewards, showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure.
  • A 2010 study considered survey data from 136 countries to see whether people who answered yes to the question “Have you donated money to charity in the last month?” were happier overall. A clear correlation was found In 122 of the countries; in fact, on average it was found that donating to charity had a similar impact on happiness to household income doubling!
  • A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking.
  • Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

Why brag about giving?

Giving is contagious. A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others.

This is one of the reasons the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was so successful – it happened in public for all to see. It added some pressure on those being asked to participate and increased the social recognition for good acts. So let your information go on honour rolls, share your donation on Facebook and don’t be afraid to call out your colleagues.

How to give?

The below list is from the book – The Science of Giving: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charity.

  1. Give to very specific projects. (Find your passion and give to specific projects)
  2. Give more frequently in smaller amounts. (Keeps the happiness juice flowing)
  3. Give with no strings attached. (Unconditional giving)
  4. Give when you know who your donation will help. (Give when you have clarity of end receiver)
  5. Give in public ways. (Brag as I said earlier)

The most satisfactory charity projects for me are Education related. I spend my money, time and knowledge in projects related to Human Well-being. I believe in teaching a person how to fish rather than getting him a fish. Education is one way of making people independent to get their own fish.

The words of the American Indian, Ohiyesa: “It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance. Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.”

Ponder (and take action) on following questions and make your life happier.

What are you going to give?

Who are you going to give?

When are you going to give?

GivingQuote

References:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-charities-health-happiness-idUSKCN0R40L620150904
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201501/happiness-comes-giving-not-buying-and-having
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/want-to-be-happier-give-m_b_6175358.html

TeachToReach

The Teach To Reach Volunteers

Mrugank Patel
mrugank.patel@gmail.com