“When we cooperate, share, or express gratitude,
reward circuits light up in the brain. ”
– Dacher Keltner
According to Lizette Borelli in her article, “Random Acts of Kindness Raise Dopamine Levels and Boost Your Mood” studies show that sharing kindness, in big or small ways, creates Dopamine in the brain and induces “the helper’s high.” When we’re down, we may think we need to “treat ourselves” or that some “retail therapy” will lift us out of the doldrums but, realistically, the best gift you can give yourself is to give tangibly or intangibly to someone or something besides yourself.
Sarah recalls, “I was just casual friends with Alison. Our kids were in swim class together and we’d been church nursery workers together. Then one day my daughter came down with an incredibly high fever and was hospitalized. My son was only 8 months old. Alison showed up on my doorstep at 6:00 am and said, ‘I heard about your daughter. I’ll take care of your son, I live just down the street from the hospital. You can go be with your daughter and come feed your son throughout the day.’ It was the kindest gift anyone could have given me just then – she sacrificed days of her time to take care of my baby until my firstborn was well enough to come home. We’ve been best friends ever since.”
Howard confides, “I’ve struggled with social anxiety for years – I panic in crowds of people. But I know the worst thing for me is to hole up in my room. I love dogs but can’t keep any of my own where I live. So, I volunteered with a rescue shelter that takes in dogs that are unlikely to be adopted because of their age, health, or temperament. It’s like a village of misfit dogs, way out in the countryside. The dogs just need someone to play with them, groom them, and work with them so they can overcome their anxieties.”
Clinical depression had been Linda’s diagnosis since she was a teen. “I could deal with the chemical imbalance in my brain medicinally, but overcoming the lack of self-esteem was worse. Introspection was my enemy – the best thing I could do for myself was think about someone other than me! My happiest moments in life have been as a camp counselor for children in the foster care system, many of whom are “wards of the court.” When health issues prevented me from working at the camp, I knew I didn’t have money to give, so I thought about what I’m passionate about. History! So I became a docent at the local history museum explaining to school tours the history of their hometown.” (The names above were changed for privacy.)
As we soar into the Season of Giving, many mistakenly think of giving as writing a check to a charitable organization. In itself, charitable contributions are a great thing, so long as what is given “costs” you something. Giving is more than a transfer of goods, an award, or a bequeathal. Giving is sharing something of yourself – be it your time, your creativity, your skill, or your treasure. Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages” says the way people show love are 1) words of affirmation, 2) spending quality time, 3) receiving/giving gifts 4) service, and 5) physical touch. Writing cards to deployed soldiers, reading to a shut-in, giving a housewarming plant to the new neighbor, serving food at a shelter, or holding NICU babies while their parents rest are just some examples of the kind of giving that gives back.
But how do you overcome the inertia of your own problems, be it physical pain, financial hardship, emotional frustration, or the limitation of personal doubt?
Both of these resources allow you to put in your zip code and see what opportunities are available in your area. As your wellness and health coach, I would be happy to help you think through what would be the best way for you to give according to who and where you are in life!
But the easiest way to find opportunities to give is to just look for them wherever you go and whatever you are doing.
Perhaps this poster will inspire you!
John Sweeney is a social entrepreneur and kindness coach from Cork, Ireland. He is the founder of Suspended Coffees, the world-wide social movement that has positively impacted and changed millions of lives around the world. No stranger to difficult times in his life, John’s mission is to change society one act of kindness at a time. “Everybody matters and deserves to be cared about,” says John. “No one should ever feel alone when one kind act – something as simple as a smile, a conversation or a cup of coffee – can change the course of their day and even their lives.” Watch John’s talk to find out more – he is as inspiring as he is passionate!
John’s three key areas are, firstly, the need to be kind to others – to make someone feel they matter; secondly the importance of inspiring others to be kind – people notice kindness to others and are encouraged to pay it forward; and finally the need to be kind to yourself – we are often our own worst enemies in this regard but treating ourselves with kindness is just as important.
Contact me to set up a free 30-minute consultation to see how we help bring you closer to health and wellness.