What does giving back mean to you? For me it’s being thankful and showing that thanks for everything life has afforded to me in my second chance. For everything I do that has a benefit for myself I try to balance that off by doing something for someone else that has no self-benefit at all. Be that giving my time to charitable endeavours, spending time with someone who needs my company, listening to others or, at its simplest level, buying a Big Issue from my local guy every week.
Giving back doesn’t have to take up a lot a time. Even sitting quietly for a few minutes and feeling gratitude for what you do have is enough. Though not doing anything tangible you are at least appreciating life which is so easily forgotten and is a form of giving back.
Giving back and feeling appreciation is good for you
Taking a bit of time to appreciate the good in your life has a positive effect on the feel good chemicals within our bodies. It gives us time out from everyday stresses and worries at work and home. It also gets you to reflect on what is good in your life rather than the bad which in turn makes our brains seek out more of the good stuff to give us those happier thoughts.
Try it – spend 60 seconds every day and just mentally list 5 different things you are grateful you have or do. Doesn’t matter if they are small things (like taking those uncomfortable heels off for the day and feeling the relief.)
The morphic field that this thankfulness seems to generate then lends itself to the more tangible displays and actions of giving back in some way which in turn will brighten someone else’s life or day. It might even lead to a never-ending circle of small kindnesses being done all over the place by everyone willing to try.
Giving back helps ward off self-pity
Being grateful for what you have in your life is a good way to keep self-pity at bay. I know when things are tough or you are having one of those ‘woe is me’ days it can be hard to shake the feeling of “the world is against me.” However, it is not healthy and those negative feelings can create a fog of misery that is difficult to shake off. Take a deep breath, count back from 10 and refocus your thoughts on what you are grateful for. Then find a way to do something nice for someone else. Make that phone call to your parents, a sibling, a friend you haven’t spoken to for some time. Focus on their needs and how you can help them. Chances are your own feelings of sadness, or dissatisfaction will vanish as you shift your mental energy away from your negative to their positive.
Recently a friend told me of how she had experienced the day from hell; everything that could go wrong did go wrong. At the end of the day she suddenly realised she had run out of cat food and her furry friends were complaining loudly. She set out for the local late night shop and as she walked down her road she saw a homeless man sleeping rough in an estate agents’ doorway (ironic). At the shop while buying the cat food she was overwhelmed by gratitude that she was going back to a warm house, a warm bed and people who loved her. She bought a bag of groceries and on her way back gave the food to the homeless man. His thanks and surprise brought tears to her eyes and the bad day was forgotten. Giving back reset the balance of the day for her and made a small difference for that night for someone else.
Giving back is good for your health
When we feel sorry for ourselves or down in the dumps it affects our physical as well as our mental health. Small acts of kindness can send endorphins through our system which are positive hormones and feeling grateful also means we are more likely to take care of ourselves. The focus on the positive and being generous to others oddly enough means we are kinder to ourselves too. We are more likely to eat better, sleep better and thus feel better. In effect, it is a positive circle. The toughest part is starting the process. So, start small and build up your gratitude reservoir. Resolve to manage one act of kindness a day, be that saying thank you, making a phone call, smiling at a colleague, helping someone resolve a problem. The trick is to focus outwards on somebody else, not inwards on your own miseries. Let me know what you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude is the first step to giving back and adding some positivity to the world.