The saying “to give is to receive” is one great big yada-yada-yada. Most of us know how good it feels when we give of ourselves to someone or something, but do we really know why?
First off, let’s clear up one intellectual zit: giving is not the same thing as sacrificing. It doesn’t feel good to give up something, whereas giving feels great because the root feelings are born out of abundance. If you’re hemming and hawing at home about this nugget, try those feelings on for size when you do either action. Working from an open, abundant heart feels different than operating a pinched, restricted one.
Now, on to the land of the giving! Once we get past taking care of our essential needs like food, shelter, and Netflix, our climb up the giving tree starts with giving money back to things just for us. We think stuff like pogo sticks, speedboats, and Knight Rider posters buys us happiness, but at their most base level, they have as much lasting power as Dory’s memory in Finding Nemo.
With a stretch, we can grab the branch above us and spend that money on experiences. If your mind jumped to those annoying Mastercard commercials (parrot statue-$5, chewing tobacco-$17, watching your nephew feed the parrot statue tobacco—priceless), I went there right with you. Backpacking in Bali, visiting the latest art exhibit or hosting a dinner with friends are all things you can buy and they make memories and create stories. Allow me to interject that when I talk about money, it can also apply to time, too (i.e. giving yourself time to learn how to cook).
What’s the difference between the two? Does it mean you’re a bad person if you buy stuff for you? Absolutely not! Buying (or giving yourself) experiences is a way for you to create meaning in the world. Experiences become part of your identity—they can build character or become fodder for funny stories you tell later. In 10 years, will you remember the Flash t-shirt you bought for $17.99 or the dinner party you hosted to celebrate your brother’s 40th birthday?
From there, we can build a pretty sturdy bridge from giving stuff to only us and expanding it to others. Study after countless study shows the correlation between giving and happiness. We get a turbo boost of good feelings when we give to our college, church, or cause. Research has shown we get a “helper’s high” when we give our time or money to a cause, which literally affects our brain chemistry. What makes the connection even stronger is if we know someone in particular affected by where we give that time or money. Think of the last time you bought Girl Scout cookies. Didn’t it feel just a little better to buy from the neighbor kid who came to your door than from the office someone or other who was selling them?
So when we give, we give back to ourselves by creating meaning in our own world, by forging social ties with who or what’s important to us. We don’t need a special occasion or flashy cause to start, so let this month be a reason to continue to open your abundant heart. Treat your friend to lunch, bring a blanket to a homeless person or help a neighbor out with some yard work. Let us know how you do on Facebook!