Being motivated by the needs of others — rather than the personal benefits of being charitable — is a key factor in enjoying the many perks of generosity. In other words, you can’t fake it and still reap its rewards.
You can, however, more genuinely contribute your time, money, and talents. “Generous impulses can be learned, and it’s exhilarating when you just get out there and try it,” says Notre Dame sociologist Hilary Davidson, PhD, coauthor of The Paradox of Generosity. To get started, she suggests taking stock of your resources — looking at time as much as money — and finding small ways these resources might be used for the good of others. Consider these ideas:
Start small. Make an extra pan of lasagna for a sick friend, buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line, share your pocket change, or just give someone a hug or pat on the back. (Touch is a powerful, direct way to give; it releases oxytocin, which promotes trust, cooperation, and sharing.)
Join a team. Paint the sets for a school play, coach a Little League team, get involved in a community improvement organization, work a phone bank, or team up with others to clean up a beach or local park.
Support a cause. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, run a 5K to fight cancer, walk dogs at a local shelter, attend (or chair!) a fundraiser for your child’s school, collect groceries for a local food bank, or make an annual pledge to a charity close to your heart.
Spread the love. Trumpet the arrival of a friend’s book or gallery show, be understanding with a cranky spouse, give a coworker credit for a good idea, organize a party for a friend, or drum up support for a local event.
This originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Experience Life. For the full article, see “The Gifts of Generosity.”