Generosity feels good, and it can have a measurable impact on our health, happiness and overall wellbeing. But it can be challenging to know how to be generous, especially if right now there are certain things you don’t feel you have enough of: like time, energy or money.
In The Paradox of Generosity, American researchers found that those who were generous with their resources tended to be healthier and happier than those who didn’t. For example, there were significantly lower depression rates in those who donated a chunk of their income to causes they supported.
When we’re generous in our lives, we can become conduits for the things we’re sharing. And as they flow through us, they tend to increase.
Here are five ways to bring generosity into your life, without a magic wand.
1. Be generous with yourself
Living generously doesn’t mean sacrificing your own wellbeing. In fact, true generosity starts with how you treat yourself.
When we’re feeling frazzled, it can be surprising how stingy we can be about the little things.
Staying at our desks instead of getting up and going to the loo when we need to. Racing between appointments without five minutes to catch our breath. Berating ourselves for the things we haven’t done, rather than celebrating the things we have.
Can you relate?
What if you were truly generous to yourself in every moment of your day?
• Recognise that you’re doing your best in every moment instead of focusing on what you don’t have
• Take care of your needs as exquisitely as possible: For instance, when you’re thirsty, prepare a delicious drink, slowly, and choosing a truly beautiful glass or mug to drink from
• Give yourself tiny treats – a new flavour of tea, a bath instead of a shower, your favourite food or a break to listen to your favourite piece of music
This is the starting point of so much of our work here at One of many, because if you’re working from a depleted state it’s impossible to be able to give freely to others.
As the Zen saying goes, we must “give from a full cup”. Because trying to be generous when our own needs aren’t met is a recipe for resentment, anger and even martyrdom.
How can you be generous to yourself today?
2. Be generous with your time
Time is something a lot of us feel we never have enough of. We can become time hoarders, siphoning off a few minutes here and there for ourselves in days packed with appointments and activities.
But the cumulative effect of that feeling that there’s “never enough time” can be that we end up feeling restricted and hemmed in, in every minute of our days.
What if you approached time with a sense of generosity? Of having more than enough to share?
• Build in an extra ten minutes between appointments, for you to use as you choose
• If you tend to run late, allow more time for travelling, so you can stroll rather than run, or take the scenic route
• Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete a task. Notice how that impacts you – sometimes, we’re more efficient when we feel less rushed
Time can be a fluid experience – it flies when we’re having fun, drags when we’re doing something we don’t want to, and is often a lot more accommodating than we imagine.
Look at your schedule in the coming week with a generous spirit.
3. Be generous with your words
Our words hold the power to move, inspire, encourage or deflate people. Choosing them wisely is one of the easiest and fastest ways we can be generous, and the rewards are inspiring.
How can you use your words generously today?
• Tell someone who really matters to you what they mean – how they help you, what they bring to your life, the impact that they have on your day-to-day. Be specific.
• Next time you say thank you to someone during the course of your day – could be a checkout assistant, delivery person, your coach or your partner – take the time to be really generous. Make eye contact, feel the power of your gratitude, let them know how much you appreciate them.
• Telling the truth can be the most generous thing we can do. If you have an insight to share with someone that you’ve been holding back on for any reason, make a note of it. Perhaps you’re worried about hurting their feelings or there never seems to be the right time? Take a few minutes to think about how you can gracefully share what you need to, and give them the gift of your honesty.
4. Be generous with your network
We’re more connected than ever, and yet loneliness is becoming a problem we’re increasingly aware of. In fact, in January 2018 Britain appointed its first “Minister for Loneliness” following a report which showed that more than 9 million people in the country often or always feel lonely.
Connecting people and nurturing your own support network is a generous thing to do. The connection someone else is looking for, whether in friendship, business or any other area of their life, could be one that would be easy for you to make.
And if you become someone who connects others, they’re much more likely to connect people to you.
Create a community of giving in your own life. Here are some ideas:
• Is there someone you keep meaning to “grab a coffee” with but never quite get round to doing it? Next time you see them, pick a date and stick to it. You never know how you might be able to help each other.
• Can you think of two people who work in related areas but don’t know each other? Why not send a quick email connecting them, to see what ideas might be sparked.
• Do you ever see posts on social media asking for help with something you know nothing about? Be generous – make a point of thinking of someone you know who might be able to help. Signpost them to the person making the request, and see if they make all the difference.
5. Be generous with your wealth
If we’re feeling stretched financially, giving can feel tough, but in today’s world even a relatively small amount can make a huge difference to the lives of those in need. Setting up a regular commitment to a cause you love is a fantastic way to get involved and stay up to date with the incredible work they’re doing in the world.
And using your finances generously doesn’t have to mean charitable giving. It might mean getting really conscious of how you spend your money – choosing to buy ethically, whether through clothing or food, is one way of behaving generously towards others in the world.
At One of many we believe you shouldn’t have to choose between investing in yourself, and making a difference. We support The Hunger Project through donations and training to continue their incredible work in the world, and plenty of other businesses now have similar schemes in place.
How can you get creative to be more generous financially in the world?
• What charities are you currently giving to? Check in with your current causes and see if they still feel like a fit for your values. Would you like to add something new?
• How does your spending reflect your values? Can you be more generous in the choices you make?
• Can you be generous to yourself? Maybe you could do with some financial education to help you sort things out.
The practice of generosity
Living generously feels good. It reminds us that there is an abundance of good things in the world, and that by sharing those things freely we welcome more of them into our lives.
I’m curious: is generosity something you’re aware of? Do you practice it, aspire to it, or notice when you’re living it? Share your experience in the comments.
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