What is the holiday season all about? Spending time with friends and family, merriment, celebration, religion… it can mean many things to different people. But no matter what your traditions are, something common among everyone is the belief that the holidays are a time for generosity.
With all of the stress the holidays bring along with them, however, generosity is one thing that can fall by the wayside. Today we discuss how to foster generosity to yourself and others this season.
What is Generosity?
First, let’s begin with what we mean when we say the word ‘generosity.’ According to Merriam Webster, generosity is a liberalness in giving; characterized by a noble and kind spirit. While dictionary definitions are far from the end-all be-all, this helps us create two pillars that we can base our thoughts of generosity around: an action, giving, and a feeling, kindness. Both of these we can think of as selfless behaviors.
According to the Berkeley Well-Being Institute other psychological studies, the virtue of giving good to others actually helps improve our own mental health and quality of life. When we give and receive from others, our brain actually releases dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure. And when we give, it encourages a feedback loop of returned kindness that keeps cycling. Essentially, giving is not only good for the object of your generosity, but for yourself, as well.
This doesn’t even have to be exclusively between friends—strangers encourage kindness in others with “pay it forward” chains in places like drive throughs or highway tolls, where the person ahead of you paid for you, and you pay for the person behind you in turn. If you’re having a rough day, spreading even random acts of kindness and giving good things to others freely can make you feel better, according to the science of generosity.
How to be More Generous
What are some steps you can take that will actually help foster more generosity in your life?
1) Practice positive thinking: generosity starts from within. Positive emotions put us in the mood to give. When we feel good about ourselves, we also want others to feel good. And the more often you give, the more likely you are to use generosity as a way to pick yourself up when you do feel down.
2) Embrace little acts: random acts of kindness get a bad rap for not having a huge impact on world problems like say, volunteering or donating to charity. Both of these things are great, of course, and should be embraced by everyone, but to start your generosity journey, it’s ok to start small. Even the simple act of holding the door open for someone when they don’t expect it can be enough to start a mini dopamine chain.
3) Act on observations: when it comes to the people in your life that you’re close to, you probably know a lot about them. This is a great jumping-off point for generosity. If you know a family member likes a certain brand of tea, consider bringing them some the next time you visit.
While small and simple, acts like this make other people feel like you really know and care about them. If someone cares a lot about eliminating plastic straws, then chances are they would also enjoy one of our plant-based skin care products.
4) Dedicate time and money to others: to build up your generosity, it’s helpful to start designating a specific amount of money each month to give, whether it’s $5 every paycheck, or 5%. This principle also works with time, because generosity is not just monetary. Take one Sunday out of the month to volunteer at a local organization that works on issues you care about. Volunteer match is a great place to start!
How to be More Generous with Yourself
Generosity doesn’t have to be just external. As we’ve talked about above, being generous starts with yourself and your own mindset.
1) Treat yourself: everyone has something they love that they know isn’t the best choice, maybe health wise (for us, almond croissants) and money-wise. As with everything, practice restraint and moderation, but these little treats are some of what makes life rich and enjoyable. So, it’s OK every so often to buy a book you don’t need or another latte.
2) Bring intention to your life: we make a lot of choices every day, some of which we dwell on and others that are just part of the routine. But generosity is all about intention, which is why to foster more of it, you should consider expanding your intentional thinking to other parts of your life.
Consider, for instance, your bedtime routine. Do you scroll through your phone for an hour, watch Netflix, or read a book? If you want to get better sleep, intentionally design your routine to accomplish that goal. If you want to be more sustainable, make an intention to only buy Fair Trade clothing (for this, Made Trade is a fantastic resource).
3) Give yourself time: not everything needs to happen right away. You’re allowed to take as much time as you need for yourself and not rush the process. Allow yourself time to take care of and cherish yourself with positive affirmations for the mind and proper skin care for your body.