Gift-giving has long been one of my favorite ways to love on people. While I’m not great at timely gifts for requisite holidays, I love picking up spontaneous things and mailing surprise packages in fun wrapping paper. During the pandemic, my penchant for sending surprises through the mail has found a new form in supporting small business around me as well. But more on that in a minute.
Generosity is good for us. And it takes many more forms than sending chocolate in the mail, which means we can each find how we express generosity the best. I’d like us to think about generosity as looking for the good we can do for others.
A study of brain activity found that those who just pledged to spend money on a friend saw more brain activity associated with altruism and happiness. According to the same study, small acts of generosity had the same effect as large acts. Another study concluded that the positive effects of generosity on blood pressure are equal to those from interventions like medication and exercise. Other reports show that habits of generosity can combat depression, stress and anxiety, lower risks of dementia, and even help with chronic pain management, in addition to improving sleep and resiliency and contributing to a sense of purpose and satisfaction, strengthening relationships, and fostering a sense of community.
In short, generosity is good for your mental, physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing!
In a sense, it’s not surprising to see a surge of giving in hard times such as these. Most people are struggling in some way, but we find a purpose in giving. Whether time or treasure, people everywhere find comfort and strength in giving to a friend, a neighbor, a charity, a community. Giving ties us into our community, and the pandemic has only highlighted that giving to others can double as essential support for local businesses.
Many small businesses have made it easy for us to support them while being generous:
If gifts aren’t your thing, many nonprofits face unprecedented struggle, and many have risen to the occasion to support community members. From nonprofits on the front lines to museums and zoos, their missions are all essential in some way and could all use support. If you’d like to exhibit generosity through giving but don’t have a favorite nonprofit of your own, be sure you’re following us on Facebook May 4th and into #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5th to see our list of important community partners and nonprofits who could use your help as they support the wellbeing of our communities.
However you give, all generosity requires a generosity of spirit. If you’re in a tight financial place, monetary forms of giving may not be feasible right now. Generosity of spirit also encompasses giving your time, like through volunteering or by sharing your skills – things that don’t have a price tag.
Most of all, it’s important that we practice a generosity of spirit with each other, and especially in hard times. Respect. Compassion. Honoring what’s best in each other and not practicing comparative suffering to devalue another’s experience. Generosity of spirit is practicing humility to put your neighbor before yourself.
Certainly we are all tired right now – tired of being home with distracting new ‘coworkers’ (even if we love them), tired of Zoom calls without in-person interaction, and tired of the worry. I can personally attest, and I think you’ll agree, that this kind of weariness can easily beget irritability or frustration. Generosity of spirit helps us practice grace.
Generosity walks hand in hand with gratitude. A generosity of spirit concludes that we can be humble enough to let others show generosity to us (without expecting it) so they too can experience the joy of giving. It’s important to show appreciation, and to resist a temptation to pridefully reject someone else’s help.
There’s nothing like choosing that generosity of spirit – whether through the action of giving or the effort of understanding – to revive our spiritual wellbeing.
For your own sake, be generous.