How Giving Brings Joy to your Life
First of all HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Just a few more hours and I am headed to the airport to go see mi familia. Yes, I am traveling ON THANKSGIVING because I have traveled the eve of Thanksgiving before and it is horrendous. I mean…have you seen this video yet!!???? Yea, I live in LA.
Now, let’s talk about GIVING. I truly believe that the most effortless path to happiness and success is through GIVING. Let me explain.
The holidays are the most common time of year to give and receive. People tend to be more generous with their time and money – buying gifts for families in need, donating more at church and volunteering at soup kitchens. It’s a window of about 6 weeks where we, as humans, decide to think about others just a little bit more! But I wonder, why is the season of giving so short, and why can’t we find ways to give throughout the year in order to have more joy in our lives? I have a few guesses:
1. It’s costly and time-consuming to dive in with both feet month after month. Most people go at it hard-core for a month or so because they know they don’t have to sustain it, and it’s at a time when people need it most. Who can bear the thought of any child waking up without a gift underneath a Christmas tree? That’s why we rally the way we do! The rest of the year, however, we seem to forget that kids need shoes because they outgrow them so fast, or food for school lunches, because 1 in 5 children in the U.S. doesn’t know where there next meal will come from.
2. We simply forget the joy we feel from doing good. It feels great in the moment, but when there are less opportunities staring us in the face, it’s not on the forefront of our minds. I mean, there aren’t Toys for Tots bins at every CVS from January to November, so it’s no wonder we’re not thinking about it year-round.
3. We discount the little things, so we opt to do nothing at all. Big gestures, big checks, big volunteer work…they all lead to big joy. But if we don’t have time to go to Mexico to help build a house, or even the funds to write a big check, we dismiss the small joys that come from little gestures.
So how do we overcome these barriers in order to keep the joy alive all year, and really enrich our own lives, while doing good for others? I’ve compiled a list of things that make me completely and utterly joyful. One of them is being around my sister! Joy is contagious….so be around people who make you happy. That is my #1 suggestion!
Simple Gestures for Every Day Joy:
- Use Ink: Hand-write all thank-you notes. This is a small way to give and receive joy. When we sit down and put pen to paper, we spend at least 5 minutes in our gratitude. Anyone can send a quick email or text, and most everyone does. But imagine the gift giver receiving a card in the mail that essentially says, ‘I love you enough to take time out of my day to honor your generosity.’
- Pay it Forward: This concept isn’t new, but it is oh-so-powerful! If you’ve never offered to pay for someone’s toll behind you, or given an extra $5 to the Starbucks cashier to pay for someone’s latte, you are missing out on one of the easiest joys in the world! Even though you’ll never see the recipient’s expression, you’ll smile to yourself, like a secret joke meant just for you, that you sneakily improved someone’s day, and that likely, they’ll pay it forward in some way or another.
- Tidy Up: This can be around the house, for sure, but I’m talking about at the gym! The next time you’re putting your equipment away, pick up some stuff for another class member. You’re going there anyway, and you probably have the extra hand, so grab their mat or dumbbells, and rack them. If it’s Pilates or yoga, bring a few extra sanitizing wipes from the wall dispenser, and pass them out to some yogis near you. It’s a small gesture, but you’ll definitely received big smiles and huge ‘thank you’s.’
- Hold It: Hold doors for people! So many of us are walking with our faces smashed into our phones, so why not be different?! Walk with an awareness of who’s around you, and make the effort to speed up, or slow down, in order to catch and hold the door for someone else.
- Pick It Up: It may not be glamorous, and perhaps no one will ever know, but you’ll relish in your kindness to Mother Earth. If there’s an obvious piece of trash lying about, pick it up and throw it away. I’m convinced part of why Disneyland is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is because they keep it so pristine. With thousands of people walking through it each day, there’s bound to be litter, but guess what, you’ll never see it because Disney makes sure of it! Doing the right thing always feels good. I dare you to not feel a twinge of satisfaction the next time you go out of your way to pick something up that doesn’t belong.
- Adopt: One of the coolest-and free-things you can do is a program called ‘Adopt a Soldier.’ Basically, you become a pen pal to our nation’s finest. Who knew that just listening, sharing and supporting could make such a difference in the live of a soldier who might be homesick, or in a scary part of the world? If you have an extra $30 or so bucks to spend a month, you can also adopt a child in a third world country through World Vision. The money goes to medicine, food and schooling for the child, and it’s tax deductible. But the cool part is, you also get to exchange letters with your child and you can send small gifts like stickers and pencils, which mean the world to them.
- Pass It On: Give specific hand-me-downs to friends you know will love them. If you have a friend who loved your blue romper, but you bought two new ones and might not wear it anymore, give it to her! All other things you don’t wear or need: donate to Goodwill!
- Speak Up: This one is so important! Do not hold back your words of praise and gratitude! You always hear people at funerals say,”I wish I’d told her I loved her,” or, “I should have told him how proud I was.” We never think time is running out until it’s too late. So speak up and say the words that pop into your head! You should also do this in the workplace! If a co-worker does a stellar job, tell your boss! Seek out a store manager to tell her how an employee went above and beyond to serve you. Tell the principal what a fantastic job your child’s teacher is doing. Never hold back kind words!
- Spare Some Change: If you see an expired parking meter, please reach into your purse and grab $1 in coins and fill it up! That small kindness could save someone a really expensive ticket!
- Feed Hungry People: This one is so easy, especially if you live in a place like I do with a large homeless population. All you have to do is give your doggie bag to someone on the street. It costs nothing and means everything. I do this all the time because I hate seeing food go to waste almost as much as I hate thinking about people suffering from empty bellies.
- Eye Contact: Spend a day looking up from your mobile device and into the eyes of people on the street, in elevators, at school and at restaurants. Smile and say hello. You’d be surprised at how off-guard people will be at first, but once they look up, make eye contact with you, and say hello back, the smile that washes over them is priceless.
- Acts of Service: Time is our most precious commodity. When you spend it on someone else, the rewards for them, and for you, are immeasurable. So bake some goodies for someone, go to the grocery store for an elderly neighbor, make dinner for a stressed friend, run errands for a single parent, knit a scarf, babysit for free. Just give your time; you’ll see it’s worth more than gold!
My hope is that you steal some of these and incorporate them into your own lives. People always mention how happy and positive I am. But I wasn’t just born happy. Things aren’t always rosy; joy is a choice in most cases. If you seek out more of what you want, and put more of it out there, it becomes a mirror, a reflection of what you want to be in this world. My suggestions are simple. I want to give you basic ideas that don’t sting, don’t take tons of time or money, but that bring small amounts of incremental joy to you, and those around you. With that foundation, you’ll be able to experience more daily smiles, more gratitude with much less stress. Before you know it, people will be commenting how YOU are their inspiration because you’re so happy and positive!