Here are some Easy Ways to
Give Every Day:
Spend Money on Others
Even a small gesture like buying someone a gum ball or a mint can increase your
sense of happiness. A 2008 articleTrusted Source published in Science reported
on research done by social psychologist Liz Dunn of the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
She and her colleagues surveyed more than 600 Americans and found that those who
spent money on others experienced a greater level of happiness and satisfaction
rather than those who spent money on themselves.
In a second research project, Dunn's team questioned 16 employees in line for a
company bonus of $3,000 to $8,000 about their level of happiness. After they got
the bonus, Dunn's team went back to the employees and talked to them again about
how happy they felt, as well as how they spent the money. The size of the bonus
didn't determine their level of happiness but the amount spent on others or
given to charity did correlate with happiness levels.
Spend Time with Others
Spending time with someone can be just as or more meaningful as spending money
on him or her.
In her book, Iacovelli mentions a study where $10 Starbucks cards were handed
out in four different ways. People were told to:
Give the card to someone else.
Take someone out for coffee using the card.
Get coffee alone.
Go for coffee with a friend but spend the gift certificate on themselves.
The group of participants who spent the gift card on someone else while spending
time with that person experienced the highest happiness levels.
Our time is often worth more than our money these days, and spending it on
someone with nothing to gain for ourselves (like networking opportunities) is a
Volunteer - Untraditionally
I don't think you need to volunteer in the traditional sense of spending several
hours a week at a program or institution to reap the benefits of doing good.
Volunteering can mean visiting an elderly neighbor or running an errand for a
friend. It can mean doing tax returns for a relative or walking your mom's dog.
For persons who suffer from chronic pain and depression, volunteering (however
you chose to do it) can be an important part of recovery. According to a study
published in 2002 in Pain Management Nursing, nurses suffering from chronic pain
experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability
and depression when they served as peer volunteers for others also suffering
from chronic pain.
"Despite encountering challenges, the rewards of this altruistic endeavor
outweighed any frustrations experienced by volunteers with chronic pain," says
Be Emotionally Available
In The Paradox of Generosity, Smith and Davidson saythat another way we can give
is in our relationships by being emotionally available, generous, and
And it has a health benefit. Those who are more giving in relationships are more
likely to be in excellent health (48 percent) than those who are not (31
percent), they write.
This is perhaps the most challenging form of giving to always be there (mind,
body, and spirit) for our spouse, our kids, our parents. When we're sincere in
this form of giving, it pays huge dividends in our lives.
Perform Acts of Kindness
I listed some acts of kindness under volunteering because I believe almost any
kind of spending time with others is a form of volunteering that can boost your
You can perform an act of kindness almost anywhere and at anytime. You can be as
creative and involved as you want devoting days to an elaborate project, or
doing good in just a few seconds. Here are some acts of kindness I'm thinking
of, but there are so many!
Holding open a door for someone
Letting someone with a few items cut in front of you at the grocery
Smiling at a stranger and saying hello
Counseling a friend
Picking up your neighbor's newspaper
Calling an older, lonely person to chat
Bringing your dog to a retirement home for folks to pet
Helping an elderly person to her car
Allowing a car to cut in front of you in traffic
The act of kindness I enjoy the most is complimenting people. It's so easy,
doesn't cost anything, and always lifts my mood.
I will compliment a complete stranger on her blouse; tell the waitress she has a
beautiful smile; praise the cashier at the grocery for being really fast; and
commend the studious girl in my carpool for her discipline and
conscientiousness. Complimenting someone takes me out of myself for a minute,
which is often a relief. By making someone else feel good about themselves, I
automatically feel better about myself.
Make Someone Laugh
Making someone laugh is the most fun way of giving and one of the very best
gifts you can offer someone. As I've said before, laughing is one of the most
potent antidepressants. It's almost impossible to be anxious and fearful when
Charlie Chaplain once said, "To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain
and play with it." So if I can get someone to laugh even a slight cackle
then I'm helping him or her to relieve the pain or pressure they carry. And in
the process, I am helping to relieve mine as well.