Give a little, gain a lot

Giving is often associated with gifts or lavish acts that cost a lot of time and money. Although it is nice to give and receive presents, this is rarely the route to long term happiness and positive wellbeing. Research conducted around the world has shown that materialism is linked with low life satisfaction. The giving we are talking about today isn’t about gifting material goods, but gifting our time to support others.

Theme 3: Giving

The next theme that can improve our wellbeing is giving. The type of giving we are focusing on is prosocial behaviours such as volunteering, sharing and cooperating to benefit others. This could range from offering our seat to someone on the train or comforting a friend who is going through a tough time: giving to others does not need to involve spending lots of time or money. Altruistic behaviour such as helping others and sharing can lead to feeling more positive and increased self-worth. Giving back to others and reciprocating kindness can improve wellbeing for people of all ages.

Why giving is good for our wellbeing

When we give to others, the reward areas in our brains are stimulated, which makes us feel good about ourselves. Helping others and sharing can give us a sense of self-worth and purpose. Not only that, giving and sharing can result in developing new, stronger relationships throughout life which are also essential to wellbeing.

In a national survey, 80% of people in the UK said they felt good after being kind, with 87% feeling that being kind to others has a positive effect on their own health. Helping other people can give us a sense of euphoria or a ‘helper’s high’ which can reduce stress and improve our wellbeing. If you’ve seen the episode of ‘Friends’ where Joey and Phoebe argue about whether there is such a thing as a selfless good deed, it looks as if Joey may be right – helping others helps us feel good.

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Small acts of kindness can make a big difference

Whether it’s volunteering or a small act of kindness to someone else, giving is linked with positive wellbeing. Those who are kind to others – including those who commit small acts of kindness – report benefits such as:

Being kind to others does not need to be time consuming: one study asked participants to commit five random acts of kindness each week over six weeks. These acts included visiting a sick relative, helping someone with a problem and donating blood. Wellbeing improved amongst those who carried out these random acts of kindness compared to those who didn’t. Other research has shown that committing just one act of kindness a week over six weeks led to increased wellbeing, compared to those who did not help others.

When giving our time to others, it is important to look after ourselves. If we overly focus on helping others without considering our own needs, we can put ourselves at risk of burnout, feeling guilty and even depression. Therefore it is important not to take on too much and spread ourselves too thinly –spending just 15 minutes of our time giving is enough to not only help others, but benefit us too.

Today’s activity asks you to give 15 minutes of your time to someone or something else. The worksheet provides you with some ideas on how you can give your time, be it helping someone else or your local community. These are just suggestions so if you’d like to give 15 minutes of your time doing something else to help others, then do. There is also space on the worksheet to reflect on how it went and how you felt afterwards.

Click the link below to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

If you have any ideas about other activities we can do by giving 15 minutes of our time, please get in touch so they can be shared with everyone. It would be great to create a ’15minute giving’ database so any contributions would be greatly appreciated.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram inbetween weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms tokeep up to date.

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