We’d be lost without the generosity of others. But as it turns out, it’s the giver who reaps the greater rewards. Research suggests that, next to quitting smoking, giving may be the best thing you can do for your health. “The one-a-day vitamin for the soul is helping another person,” says Stephen Post, PhD, author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping. So why not start today? We at Toyota have teamed up with Life Time Fitness to bring you the following guide to giving.
Listen. By simply being attentive, you’re satisfying an important human need—to be heard. “As anyone’s spouse will attest,” says Post, “If you’re not listening, you’re not loving me.” Listening to someone speak may be the greatest act of giving you do today.
TRY IT >> Hold back. Next time you’re talking with your spouse, friend, or child, make a concerted effort to let that person express his or her thoughts without interrupting. (It’s harder than it sounds.)
Act out. Giving is a powerful antidote to negativity. “Emotions actually follow your actions,” says Post. If you’re feeling enraged, annoyed or just miffed, he says, engage in helping activities— and you’ll turn off the neural circuits associated with destructive emotions.
TRY IT >> Shift gears. Next time you feel caught in a downward spiral of self-pity, act in a way that runs counter to your mood: Spring for coffee, play a game with your kids, or reach out to someone whom you know is having a tougher day than you are.
Give in person. All types of giving confer benefits on the giver—but nothing is as rewarding as the face-to-face variety. “Giving in person has a whole other biological dynamic, involving higher production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of serenity and tranquility,” says Post.
TRY IT >> Show up. Rather than only giving online, do some good deeds in person. When you ring a doorbell with flowers in hand, for instance, you enhance the experience for yourself and the recipient.
Empower. Nurturing another person’s growth is one of the highest orders of giving—and has been shown to protect and improve physical and mental health over a lifetime.
TRY IT >> Take someone under your wing. Whether this means assuming the role of mentor, or taking the new hire out to lunch, seek out ways to enable someone else to grow, and you’ll have given a priceless gift.
Survey Says . . .
A 2010 survey of more than 4,500 adults by United-Healthcare and Volunteer-Match gathered insights on the connections between volunteering and well-being. In 2009, 4 out of 10 Americans participated in a volunteering activity, with more than half of the volunteers devoting an average of 100 hours per year.
Of the volunteers surveyed . . .
- 96 percent feel happier for having volunteered
- 92 percent believe volunteering enriches their sense of purpose
- 89 percent say volunteering has improved their sense of well-being
- 76 percent feel younger than their age
- 73 percent feel less stressed
For more information on the benefits of giving, visit www.whygoodthingshappen.com.
Toyota is the title sponsor of SheROX Triathlon Series. Visit www.sheroxtri.com.