The Happiness Class: Giving
I have ‘given’ to each of my friends and my family and it is beautifully soul-enriching. With a letter or a small gift, you make someone else happy and that can give you so much in return.
What Is It?
For some, giving is a means to receive. We see this especially on high days and holidays. We hear, ‘Oh! For last birthday, they got me this… so now, I must give them that’. We have all experienced the 'tug of war' of receiving and giving and the quest for an equilibrium when it comes to amount spent, for example. However, what I am pitching to you now is the lack of expectation of return - instead, the good in simply giving. This is a happiness I have found in lockdown. I have ‘given’ to each of my friends and my family and it is beautifully soul-enriching. With a letter or a small gift, you make someone else happy and that can give you so much in return. My living situation during this time has meant that I had to reach out to find connections that came to me naturally as part of my normal life routine. My job, and my natural role within family and friendship circles, meant that I was able to connect frequently before - it was a normality that I had not realised was so important to me. Faced with this lack of contact, I found a part of me was needing to ‘care’. I imagine a great deal of you now feel the same. Perhaps you are the one that goes into town before your friend’s birthday and gets the balloons; maybe you are the one that brings extra lunch for after school cadet practice snacks; perhaps you are the person that will walk your friend to their bus stop, bypassing yours. If you are, this is for you.
How Do I Do It?
Well, that's the beauty of it - there is no one way. The challenge of it can also be rewarding. What one friend or family member needs to be given is very different from the rest. This is my favourite part - what do they need at this time? Flowers are a common avenue - but do they have a vase? This is the part where you show how well you know them by spending a little time researching to work out exactly what will make them smile. Perhaps it is a wave through a window when you have walked five miles to get to their side of town. Perhaps it is yoga socks, purchased at a small financial cost to you, but demonstrating that - even though you will never be able to do a ‘mountain pose’ without arching your back! - you were listening when they talked about 'Yoga with Adrienne'. Perhaps it is a home-made treat; maybe it is a candle to help them count down the time left in this situation. For many of my loved ones, it has been a letter. We have nothing new to say, it is true! I could tell them about my excitement at seeing a seagull nest near my home (again!); however, what I have taken to doing is documenting this experience of loving them at this difficult time. I have written things like, ‘we have FaceTimed so much during this time, and I have loved how big your hair gets when left to its own devices’. What seems obvious now could be interesting to reflect upon on the other side and they will probably keep your letter forever. By giving in this way, you are providing comfort now and a smile on the other side. I can promise you that ‘giving’ will bring you happiness.
What Are The Benefits?
Well, to get scientific, in a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a 'warm glow' effect. This correlates with what I believe and have experienced. Nothing brings me more happiness than ‘giving’ to another. The excitement I feel when searching for a gift or awesome card for someone special to me, or even just taking a moment to think about what I can ‘give’ and how I can deliver it, brings me genuine joy. I lay in bed and think, what do they need at this time? Is it a phone call with no time restriction - if so, when can I give that to them? If you are sending something, you get all of the anticipation until eventually, you get a photo on WhatsApp of your card on their window ledge. You then know that, however bad their day was, you were able to create a moment of joy which has how transferred back into your day. What could be better than that? I believe this is what they call 'win-win'.
Where Can I Find Out More?
There are plenty of websites and social media accounts that you could follow at this time. That said, I would encourage you, if you are able, to research local food banks or charities that could benefit from your ‘giving’ at this time. Start off small perhaps… ‘give’ by making someone in your household a hot drink. Quick! Do it now before they make it themselves!