When you think of being more generous, what comes to mind?
Do you think about donating money to help a cause?
Do you consider volunteering time so that others may benefit?
You have a desire to be generous, but there’s something holding you back.
Maybe the last time you were generous, it wasn’t appreciated.
You may believe generosity isn’t an option, because you do not want to be taken advantage of.
You may have experienced a traumatic event related to your sexual identification or orientation that now rules out generosity as a viable way to connect with others and help them.
On top of this very specific concern, you may also believe that a part of living a fuller, fulfilled life is by giving back — being generous with those who may or may not get the attention and love they need.
If you’re afraid or ashamed of being generous, know that you’re not alone. There are thousands in the LGBT+ community who want to do more, but are concerned their efforts are not good enough, or that how they live their lives will be ridiculed or even rejected.
You can develop the skills to be generous again, and you can do it with a full heart.
In fact, Richard Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison states, “…a plethora of data [shows] that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being.”
He also shares that well-being, as well as its constituents can be “shaped through training and experience.”
While we may believe, now, that we do not have control over our well-being, you may be surprised to know that Davidson believes, “we have an opportunity to take responsibility of shaping our minds.”
Learn more and watch his video on the four constituents to well-being below:
What Is Generosity?
If you don’t already know how to define generosity, here’s a quick overview. Generosity is the choice to be selfless, commit acts of kindness, and give to others. While this is a simplified version of generosity, it gives way to the notion that to be generous we must also be mindful. To be mindful of self is to be aware of our inner wisdom.
What’s more, generosity, while giving to and acting kind toward others is selfless, it actually helps us feel fulfilled, improving our well-being. You may believe that to feel good about yourself and what you’re doing in life that you must take things. Instead, it’s been neurologically proven that generosity is healthier and more beneficial to you, as mentioned in Davidson’s video above.
Why Is Generosity Important?
Generosity is innately reciprocal. When we commit an act of kindness, it sets off a chain of events that, eventually, will return to us in some way. For example, if you decided to take your friend’s trash out. Your friend may then do your dishes the next time he is over visiting. You see, even the smallest generous act or intention activates a part of our brains that stokes the desire of reciprocation. Also, generosity makes us feel good, not because we hope to get something in return, but because we know that what we did is helping another human.
5 Ways to Create More Generosity in Your Life
You want to be more generous; however, you’re not sure if simply donating money or spending time with those in need is the right thing to do. In fact, a precursor to generosity is mindfulness — knowing and understanding your inner-wisdom so that you can align it with your actions.
Mindfulness is the ability to remain aware of your inner-self, exterior surroundings, and everything in between. Through your inner-wisdom and exterior senses, you can better regulate your life and live it more fully. What’s more, you becoming more mindful naturally creates the desire to be more generous.
In fact, read 5 Daily Practices to Transform Your Outlook on Life to get started on transforming your mindfulness.
Here are some actions you can take to become more generous:
1. Focus on the Benefits of Generosity
While this may be a “thinking” activity, you may be able to see that generosity is more than taking action. It’s about feeling like you can make a difference, and that you are making a positive impact on other people’s lives in the world. One way you can “see” the benefits of generosity is to keep an eye out in your daily life for small acts of kindness. Look for it in other people. Be the person that commits those actions.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”― Mahatma Gandhi
2. Practice Gratitude, Daily
You have more than you think. You know more than you give yourself credit for. Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for in your life. You can write it down on paper, type it on your computer, tap it into your phone, or simply sit for a few minutes and think. No matter how you “record” your list, take the time to make one. Here are some items you may find yourself adding to your gratitude list:
- Sugar in my coffee
- My roommates
- Monday phone calls with dad
- My coworker Karen
- The pilot of my flight
- Baked potatoes
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”— John F. Kennedy
3. Give Before You Take
As you’ve read already, part of generosity is reciprocation. One needs to give first to then receive later. While this action of giving first may feel awkward, weird, or scary, it’s a great first step to becoming more generous.
Giving first can take many forms. For some, it’s giving a compliment to someone they care about. For others, it’s giving back to the community. Take that first courageous step and give first.
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
4. Support a Cause You Believe in
You may have a cause, charity, or movement that you believe. One way to be generous is to volunteer your time with these groups or organizations. Help advance the mission as an advocate. Another way you can support a cause is to donate; it doesn’t have to be a lot either. Even a $1 donation can make a difference.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”― Winston S. Churchill
5. Invest in Someone You Believe in
You may not prefer to volunteer or donate to causes and/or organizations. Instead, you can find someone you look up to, admire, and/or respect to support them and their mission in life. Those who are doing good in the world do need help. You can be generous with your time, money, emotions, and more to help this one person advance their positive impact through the world.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”― Maya Angelou
Create More Generosity in Your Life Today!
As you journey through life, generosity can play a key role in how you feel and think about the world around you. It can also affect how you think about yourself. You can make a difference in the world, and you can train your ability to be more generous. If you’re not sure how to do this, find a therapist near you.
Here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Focus on the Benefits of Generosity
- Practice Gratitude, Daily
- Give Before You Take
- Support a Cause You Believe in
- Invest in Someone You Believe in