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.

What can you learn about love?

Today is Valentine’s Day which celebrates love. Although many people enjoy exchanging cards and gifts and declaring their affection for others, some of us find Valentine’s Day very difficult. If you’re in a relationship or not, the romantic ideals shown in films, TV and social media can be hard to live up to, which isn’t great for our wellbeing.

Today’s post uses Valentine’s Day to introduce the next theme that can improve your wellbeing – learning. Learning in adulthood can help us feel more positive about ourselves and our lives – this is what today’s blog and activity aim to do.

But what’s learning got to do with love? One of the key benefits of learning is that it helps us connect with others. Also, learning about the different types of love – the focus of today’s activity – can increase our awareness of the different ways we love and are loved, most of which aren’t celebrated on Valentine’s Day.

Theme 2: Learning

Learning broadens our minds and improves insight into all aspects of our lives – ourselves, our relationships and the world around us – which in turn is good for our wellbeing. Learning isn’t just about memorising something new, ready for a test. It also involves having new experiences, developing skills and gaining knowledge that can enrich our lives.

Learning can be a time consuming process. However, a recent large-scale study showed that training related to hobbies or leisure activities does not need to be of a high intensity or duration to improve wellbeing. Therefore, learning something new in just 15 minutes can help you feel better within yourself.

Why is learning good for our health and wellbeing?

Learning beyond our school days has many benefits such as helping us to connect with others, give us a sense of purpose and increase our self-esteem and self-confidence. Continuing to learn after school, college or university is linked with feeling:

  • More optimistic;
  • More satisfied with life and
  • More capable of dealing with stress.

The confidence and self-efficacy gained by learning can even improve our ability to manage our health. For example, we can make better decisions about our health and better adhere to instructions from clinicians. Not only that, lifelong learning can prolong independence which can result in less reliance on healthcare services as we get older.

Reservations about learning

Although learning can have a range of benefits for our wellbeing, some of us have had negative learning experiences which cause us to feel stressed and anxious. This may in part be due to the association between learning and assessment. Even when assessments are routine and expected, the possibility of failure can be very distressing.

None of the 15 minute wellbeing learning activities involve any tests or assessments, just questions that encourage you to gain new knowledge, develop skills and even challenge you to try something that you may not have done before.

Different types of love

Valentine’s Day typically celebrates romantic love between couples and encourages single people to share their hidden romantic feelings and affection for one another. However, there is more to love than romance. The ancient Greeks had more than 30 different words to describe love in all its forms. ‘Eros’ is the word used for attraction, romance and sexual desire, the type of love typically celebrated by Valentine’s Day.

Another type of love is ‘Philia’ the love we have for people with whom we share experiences and goals. This may be your team mates in a netball or football club, soldiers in the same army regiment or even your co-workers.

Today’s activity asks you to discover and learn about different types of love. Not only that, but also reflect on your experiences of the multiple ways we love and are loved. The worksheet has space for you to note up to four different types of love, though you do not have to fill in all the boxes if you run out of time.

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’d like to share how you got on with this activity, or a type of love that you experience, please do get in touch.

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