We all know how great it feels to receive gifts. However, the joy of getting is short-lived. Our lives are richer when we share, and that great inner joy comes from helping others to better their lives. Truly giving from the heart fills your life with joy and nourishes your soul. Giving provides an intrinsic reward that’s far more valuable than the gift. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others.” Giving takes you out of yourself and allows you to expand beyond earthly limitations. True joy lies in the act of giving without an expectation of receiving something in return.
Academic research and thousands of years of human history confirm that achieving meaning, fulfillment, and happiness in life comes from making others happy, and not from being self-centred. Mother Teresa is a famous example. She found fulfillment in giving of herself to others. She helped change the expression on dying people’s faces from distress and fear to calmness and serenity. She made their undeniable pain a little easier to bear.
When people are asked why they give, the readiest answers include: God wants me to; I feel better about myself; others need, and I have; I want to share; it’s only right. The question I would ask is how did you feel? I imagine you felt very pleased with yourself and happy inside. It has been my experience that when you’re focused on giving to others you’re less likely to become consumed by your own concerns and challenges. Giving provides an opportunity to look beyond our own world and see the bigger picture. A great perspective can be achieved by stepping out of our own world and venturing into the world of other people. Your worries and challenges may not seem as significant when compared to other people’s situations.
The act of giving kindles self-esteem and brings happiness. Scientists have discovered that happiness is related to how much gratitude you show. After several years of soul searching, I discovered that my unhappiness was due to my want for things to fill the void of loneliness. My search for inner happiness led me towards gratitude. During this process of self-realization, I also discovered “The Purpose of Living.” Yes, I believe that giving thanks makes you happier. But don’t take my word for it—try it out for yourself.
The power of giving
Giving is one of the best investments you can make towards achieving genuine happiness. True giving comes from the heart, with no expectation of reciprocation. You’ll find that the more you give, the more you’ll receive. The power of giving is manifested in the kindness and generosity that you bestow on someone else. When you give to another unselfishly, the vibrational energy emitting from your subconscious is at its strongest. The power of giving, according to neuroscience, is that it feels good. A Chinese proverb says: “If you always give, you will always have.” A famous American author and management expert, Ken Blanchard, declared “The more I give away, the more comes back.”
If you find yourself feeling unhappy, try making someone else happy and see what happens. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, try doing some meaningful and worthwhile work and see how you feel. The catch is that you must do this work with passion and enthusiasm.
There are many organizations, institutions and people who are engaged in exemplary works of giving. Narayanan Krishnan is a management graduate from Madurai, India who gave up his career as chef with a five-star hotel when he saw a man so hungry that he was feeding on his own excreta. From there on Krishnan started his noble initiative to feed thousands of destitute and homeless people in his state—free of cost. Another example of giving is Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, founder of the Barefoot College. Since graduating from college in 1965, Mr. Roy has committed his life to serve the poor and to help rural communities become self-sufficient. The Barefoot College education program encourages learning-by-doing, such as training grandmothers from Africa and the Himalayan region to be solar engineers so they could bring electricity to their remote villages.
It’s the joy and love that we extend to others that brings true happiness or union with God. When we give, we reap the joy of seeing a bright smile, laughter, tears of joy and gratitude for life. We know that if people give just a little more—of their time, skills, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, wealth and love—the world would be a more peaceful and healthier place.
The rewards of giving are priceless. If you want to have happiness, you need to give happiness. If you want love, you need to give love. It is only in giving that you receive. No matter what your circumstances in life, you have the ability to give. I encourage you to look for opportunities where you can give and help others. The gift of joy will come to you when you give of yourself to others. That’s what life is all about. Let’s practice and commit our lives to giving joy. Try it! It works!
I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life
Rich with inspiring stories and practical suggestions, I Like Giving helps you create a lifestyle of generosity. Written by Brad Formsma. Learn more about the book»
The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving
This spiral-bound, book combines colorful illustrations and entertaining narrative with fun learning activities, inspiring youngsters to give back to the world. Learn more about the book»
image: Carnie Lewis via Compfightcc
We’ve all had days that push us toward the edge. The chaos likely starts around mid-shift and may go something like this: Radiology calls for bed 3, bed 6 is late for discharge, the emergency department is waiting to send two new admits, and Mr. Gilbert’s wife is signaling for you again down the hallway. Your lunch break is sidetracked by a miscommunication with your colleague, and to top it all off, you just realized you’re not off this weekend after all.
Now you’re pacing in the supply closet, unable to find bulb syringes. From what feels like the depths of your soul comes the rant: “I hate this place! I’m over it! I’m just one person. I can’t do it all on my own. I’m worn out and can’t wait to go home!”
Oh, the power of the mind to send your day on a downward spiral! Repetitive thoughts of desperation and negativity affect your entire being, even at the cellular level. For example, have you noticed that the more you say, “I’m tired,” the heavier your body becomes? That the passion with which you say, “I’m over it!” somehow makes you angrier and more frustrated? It’s because the words we use are the most powerful predictors of our reality—and you’ve placed conviction and intention behind your angry words.
Your words inform your experience. So stop the negative self-talk. Instead, breathe and redirect. Say to yourself: The words I speak are empowering and comforting.
Using affirmations to create new belief structures
How can we prevent patterns like this from overtaking our consciousness? How can we recalibrate them to restore at least a modicum of balance? Self-affirmations have been used to bring healing energy to those experiencing stressors ranging from traumatic experiences to everyday financial worries to chronic disease management. They can help us reconnect with our patience, sense of calm, and personal dignity during times of stress and discomfort. When practiced consistently over time, self-affirmations can help us release outdated habitual thoughts that no longer serve us, counter self-defeating silent assumptions, enhance our self-esteem, and reduce stress.
Understand that every time you express yourself in words, you help create your reality, as you know and experience it. Author Gale LeGassick suggests the words you use shape the world around you and you’ll seek evidence in everything you do to confirm what you say is true. This notion suggests we need to think before we speak and pause before we think, for our thoughts will become the words we speak, and the words we speak will become the world we know. In that pause, we have the choice to create a new reality and a new belief structure for the moment. So breathe and believe: I create a new possibility for my life with the language I choose to express it with.
Self-affirmation theory was first discussed in social psychologist Claude Steele’s seminal 1998 work, “The Psychology of Self-Affirmation: Maintaining the Integrity of the Self.” Steele asserted that human beings possess a fundamental motivation to maintain “global self-integrity, a general perception of their goodness, virtue, and efficacy.” Basically, people experience well-being and a sense of mental, emotional, and spiritual alignment when they remind themselves of their inherent value. So breathe and remember: I am a good person. I am whole and complete within myself.
Creating your own self-affirmations
Simply repeating words you don’t believe or that conflict with external circumstances won’t improve the way you feel. You must put conviction behind those words, along with the intention to mature into a more peaceful relationship with who you are. Make your affirmations short and to the point, and include words that move and inspire you. Carry the spirit of your intention to heal the situation: All is well. I am healthy and strong.
Making time to write and speak (and if you’re an auditory learner, listening to your own voice speaking prerecorded affirmations) in a safe, relaxing setting can have positive neural effects on your brain chemistry. It can reduce the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system and promote positive behavior change: I invite waves of meaningful growth.
Creating your own affirmations can be an exciting process of self-discovery. Consider an area of your life that arouses feelings of worry, concern, or anxiety. Is it family? Friends? Work? Health? Release the need to judge yourself, and instead reflect on your thoughts and opinions about this source of “dis-ease.” Now think about how you want things to be. How would you like to feel? Write down a first-person statement that is emboldening and encourages the feelings you’ve identified; for example, “I am cared for and cared about,” “People are attracted to me,” or “It’s easy for me to relax and be flexible at work.” Repeat this affirmation several times throughout the day, particularly on awakening and before falling asleep. This helps you establish a new pattern: I’m open to new ways of being.
If you decide to use affirmations you’ve heard or read about rather than creating your own, be sure to modify them to make them your own. (See Self-affirmations you can use.) Remember—you need to practice self-affirmations over and over for weeks, even months, to create new beliefs and release deep-rooted limiting ones.
Free yourself as you create your own affirmations:I embrace all that makes me unique.
William Rosa is a Palliative Medicine Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York.
Falk EB, O’Donnell MB, Cascio CN, et al. Self-affirmation alters the brain’s response to health messages and subsequent behavior change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(7):1977-82.
Hay LL. You Can Heal Your Life, Special edition box set. New York, NY: Hay House, Inc.; 1999.
LeGassick G. What’s “Real?” Is It Open for Invention? In: Zapolski N, DiMaggio J. Conversations that Matter. Insights & Distinctions: Landmark Essays,Volume 2. San Francisco, CA: Landmark Worldwide; 2011: 5-10.
Steele CM. The psychology of self-affirmation: sustaining the integrity of the self. In: Berkowitz L, ed. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Vol. 21. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.; 1988: 261-302.
Stuart-Shor EM, Wells-Federman CL, Hoffman SD. Applying cognitive behavioral therapy in everyday nursing. In: BM Dossey, L Keegan. Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. 7th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016: 513-39.
Zapolski N, DiMaggio J. Conversations that Matter: Insights & Distinctions. Landmark Essays, Volume 1. San Francisco, CA: Landmark Worldwide; 2011.