One of the biggest resistances I hear from people who have the intention of giving more generously or volunteering to worthy causes is that they just don’t have the time!
Time is our most precious resource and while most of us feel comfortable that we are doing our part through charitable donations and sponsorship — how many of us are actually willing to give away our time to make a difference?
I came across this very dilemma myself just a month ago, when it came to the time of year in our household when we would usually choose which Charity to give to in time for Christmas. While we are mindful of choosing causes that will provide year-round and not just for the holidays (e.g. a well in a rural area or helping a family start a business), as I thought about how I would explain the concept of giving to my 2 year old — what we were doing in terms of giving just didn’t seem enough to mean something.
Putting the ‘ING’ back into Giving
We realised that for our toddler to understand what giving was all about — she really had to experience this first hand. Giving needed to be as exciting as Birthday parties, opening presents and meeting Santa Claus! It needed to have the thrill of having a clear run at the candy basket while your parents weren’t looking! And so inspired by our 2 year old and to teach her the meaning of giving, we created a pay it forward mission that is helping people all over the world give in a way that feels effortless and enjoyable.
You see, giving isn’t a lesson to be taught but a behavior to be cultivated in both children and adults, so that it becomes a normal part of the week — just like going shopping, walking the dog or taking children to their swimming/soccer practice.
When you think of all the things that go viral or are popular in the world — Pokemon Go, Louis Vuitton Bags and the endless cat videos, what they all have in common is that they make people feel good and part of a community that shares a common interest!
And so we decided it was time to make giving as addictive as Pokemon Go because giving doesn’t just help others it helps us too!
The Scientific Benefits of Giving
There have been many studies over the years from institutions such as Harvard and Berkeley to the University of Michigan, on the benefits of giving for both the recipient and the giver.
Researchers at the National Institute of Health state that giving has shown to activate the mesolimbic pathway in the person giving, also known as the reward center of the brain, which in turns releases endorphins (our feel good hormones) and creates a natural high.
And just like drugs — the more we feel this natural high the more addictive it becomes, but in this case having a positive effect on society as giving also increases social connection and cooperation.
Studies have also shown the health benefits of giving to be:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased self-esteem
- Less depression
- Lower stress levels
- Longer life
- Greater happiness
So the next time you need a pick me up, a boost in self-esteem or need to reduce your stress levels — collect your nearest and dearest and go for a round of Giv-ing, just as we have pledged to do each weekend with our Pay It Forward mission!
My Top 5 Ways to Give That Are So Easy A Toddler Can Do It!
Smile & Say Hello to complete strangers! This might not seem like giving at all, but in a world where we are all moving too fast and not stopping enough to notice the little things — smiling and saying hello is the gift of acknowledgement, social connection and joy.
When I first mentioned this to my group of mumpreneurs where we practice random acts of kindness each week, I was met by a little skepticism. However, as they actually put this into practice with their children the feedback was that this had a huge impact and that they instantly felt a shift in the energy around them. Lesson: Never underestimate the power of a smile!
- Let someone go ahead of you in line. Whether this be at the supermarket, post office or lunch queue — allowing someone to go ahead of you can completely change their day and yours. We live in such a competitive world where everyone is rushing to get to the top without regard for those around them, but why not show that there are still people in the world who are kind, patient. Lesson: Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to maintain a good attitude while waiting.
Hand out compliments. Another very simple yet highly effective way to give joy & inspiration to people is to hand out/hide hand written or printed notes of encouragement in public places like coffee shops, books shops and libraries for people to find. Sometimes this little reminder is all someone needs to completely turn their day or even week around.
Some of my favorite compliments are the simplest — e.g. You Are Awesome! because it’s a reminder of the things that should be obvious that we take for granted. Lesson: The simplest compliments mean the most!
For more examples of compliments to hand out, you can check out this free compliments sheet.
- Give away things that have inspired you. While many of us often de-clutter our houses and give away clothes and other items that we no longer need to charity, another act of kindness that I promote to the ladies that I coach is to donate things that inspire them. For example if a particular book has really helped them make a breakthrough then I suggest that they buy another copy of this book and hand it someone else they feel would benefit from it. Lesson: Giving is not just about making a donation but about making a difference.
Paying It Forward. This is one of my favourite ways to give to others and one of the ways we’ve managed to make giving as addictive as Pokemon Go! Paying for a stranger’s beverage and taking them by complete surprise has been known to create a ripple effect of kindness where the receiver wishes to pass on the gesture by paying for another stranger’s beverage and so on and so on.
However, this doesn’t have to be limited to beverages and you can use the pay it forward philosophy in a number of different scenarios from mowing the lawn for your neighbor and asking them to do the same for another neighbor or cook a nutritious meal for a new mum and ask that she do the same for another new mum when she feels able. Lesson: Gifts are not to be paid back — they are to be paid forward.
We sometimes live under the illusion that giving has to be time consuming and involve a large monetary element to have any impact, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It can be the simplest acts of kindness that create a ripple effect which can cause great change in the world and all while including all of the family. The experience of giving is something even a small child can appreciate and it’s something that needs to be encouraged both for their own well-being as well as that of society.
I look forward to the day when I hear the following as a normal exchange:
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“We’re going GIVING!”
Originally published at medium.com