The Mental Muscle Marathon - Challenge #5: GIVE BACK

Challenge #5. Give back.

We’re well over the hump now Mental Muscle Marathoners! Kudos to all of you. And there’s fun in store for you all today. Because today is about generosity!

Generosity — the quality of being kind and understanding, the willingness to give others things that have value — is often defined as an act of selflessness; however, research shows that generosity is actually (selfishly) in your best interest. Practicing generosity is a mental health principle, and it is one of the key factors in creating a joyful and healthy life.

There is so much research and statistics and smart things supporting the role of generosity in psychological and physical wellbeing that I have condensed it for you into bullet points for easy reading:

  • Generosity makes us happier. Researchers have discovered that there is a physiological basis for the warm glow that seems to often accompany altruistic giving. And this physiological basis is tied to the joy we also receive from eating, sex and social interactions.
  • Generosity makes you more healthy. When you do something good for another person, you encourage the release of endorphins (the “feel good” chemicals) in your body which brings about a ‘helper’s high’ and helps fight stress. Research has also shown that a generous attitude greatly improves our immune system, extends our lifespan and acts as an antidote to pain.
  • Generosity increases life satisfaction. There is robust evidence that volunteers are more satisfied with their life than non-volunteers.
  • Generosity leads to happiness which leads to generosity. They fuel each other in a circular fashion. Prosocial use of money/time results in feelings of happiness which are likely to lead to future similar choices. The cycle of good continues - Yaysies.
  • Generosity creates good relationships. Usually people will enjoy the company of a generous giver to the company of a selfish hoarder. Research also shows that generosity is one of the key factors for a happy marriage.

The Challenge today is all about Generosity. It’s time to engage in a selfless and meaningful act of giving. And it’s totally up to you what it is. Any kind of meaningful giving. Anything in which you give a part of yourself in a selfless way. I’m not going to offer specific examples. I’m going to let you all be creative. But I will offer these tips:

  1. Give something that is sensitive to the other person.

Generosity is most effective when the gift you offer is sensitive. Think about what the other person wants or needs. It’s not always about material things; it’s about being giving of yourself. Sometimes just being present and available to a loved one who is having a hard time is the greatest gift you could possibly give.

  1. Accept appreciation.

It is important to be open to the people who express appreciation toward you. Generosity is a two-way street, allowing someone to express their gratitude is an important aspect of generosity and part of what makes you feel closer to them. As researchers in the Department of Psychology at University of North Carolina have discovered, “The emotion of gratitude uniquely functions to build a high-quality relationship between a grateful person and the target of his or her gratitude, that is, the person who performed a kind action.” So it is important to not brush off a “thank you” with comments like “Oh, it was nothing.”

  1. Accept the generosity of others.

Some people have a much easier time being giving than receiving. However, it is important to let others do things for you. I call this the generosity of acceptance. Being pseudo-independent or self-denying robs your loved ones of the opportunity to feel the joy of giving. Accepting the generosity of others may make you uncomfortable if you felt unlovable or unworthy in your early life. Generosity is often an act of love, and, though it may seem counterintuitive, many people respond negatively to being loved.

  1. Show appreciation.

Remember that gratitude is an important part of the equation. Show your appreciation for the generosity that is directed toward you, even if you feel shy or uncomfortable. Resist the temptation to say things like “This is too much,” or “You shouldn’t have.” Instead just say “Thank you!” Or, better yet, let the person know what their generosity meant to you.

Generosity is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Each day life presents us with hundreds of opportunities to be generous; by making a lifestyle out of generosity, we can do ourselves and others a world of good.

Let’s go Marathoners! Let’s be generous.

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