Month 1 - Giving
This January, in the spirit of Gretchen Rubin, I decided to pick a theme for the year ahead. After much internal debate I settled on ‘opportunity’ and vowed to make the most of any opportunity, create opportunities and grab every opportunity going. Happily this led me to the Happiness Group project, a joint venture with Psychologies Magazine and Action for Happiness and I enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity to become one of the first 100 founding members.
Some like-minded friends have joined me on the journey and we met for our inaugural meeting in March to discuss the first Key to Happier Living – Giving.
Giving – If you want to feel good do good
We were asked to discuss the following questions and use them as a basis for our discussion. Conversation flowed easily and key points are summarised under the five question headings.
What have you done recently to help others? How did it make you feel?
We found that we had all given but in many different ways. ‘Ready to cook’ meals had been given to a poorly friend, kind words had been shared, compliments given, gratitude expressed and small unexpected gifts given for no reason other than to give and acknowledge. We discussed that people give in different ways and Emily, a group member, shared the ‘5 Ways of Loving’ which could easily be interchanged with ‘giving’
•Words of affirmation
•Receiving / giving gifts
•Acts of service
(Taken from Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages of Teenagers)
This framework resonated with us all and helped us identify our own preferred giving style. It also allowed us to consider what others might like to receive. We agreed that by observing what other people give can help us know what they would appreciate to receive.
We concluded that in basic terms ‘giving makes you feel better’.
When have you felt resentful when you’ve been giving? Why was that?
As a group we appear to be natural givers but can it sometimes come at a price? It can be hard to give when we perhaps don’t feel like it and do we run the risk of getting burnt out by giving too much? We considered the notion that ‘giving is a form of neediness’ in that we gain pleasure from giving and perhaps treat others how we would wish to be treated ourselves. We may feel resentful if giving replaces something that we had intended for ourselves, giving time perhaps to others when we had planned that time for ourselves. Balance is needed in that it is also important to give to ourselves.
Ultimately it seemed that resentment was often replaced by a sense of joy in being able to give but acted as a reminder to be more mindful of how we chose to give in the future.
Can you remember the last time that someone gave to you unconditionally and how did that make you feel?
The first response that sprung to mind was what if we don’t notice unconditional acts of giving? If an act of unconditional kindness was given would we know?
We decided that our children and pets give unconditionally and the pleasure that is received through a tight hug from your daughter or an adoring look from the family whippet can make us feel wonderful and loved. Parents often give unconditionally but gifts (particularly gifts of wisdom or advice) are perhaps not always valued or appreciated until later.
A genuine act of giving or kindness tends to be carried out quietly in a non-boastful manner therefore it can be hard to notice when we are in receipt of a gift that is not a physical token. If someone gives to you unconditionally do you feel like you owe them? How easy is it to accept unconditional gifts? This led us on to the next question.
How easy or difficult is it to ask or receive help?
It feels good to receive but it can often be difficult or feel uncomfortable too. We discussed how, as natural givers, it can be hard to accept help and even harder to ask for it. Not only can it be difficult to ask for help but sometimes deciding what help we need can be hard to establish.
We agreed that when we give it stems from a genuine sense of wanting to help so why does it feel so difficult to call those favours in?
As a way of overcoming this we considered an alternative way of thinking about receiving help. We know ourselves that giving makes us feel good so by gratefully and unapologetically receiving we are helping others feel good about themselves. Therefore receiving is also a way of giving.
Five different ways you could give easily to other people this month
Looking to the weeks ahead before our next meeting we were asked to think of ways that we could give easily to others. We decided on the following:
•Be more mindful and say or do things that we are thinking. Let people know that we appreciate, like, value them. Perhaps be more giving to someone who we normally find difficult to engage with.
•Make someone smile.
•Be kind to yourself, give to yourself. Do things you enjoy.
•Allow other people to give to us – receiving is also giving.
•It’s the little things – say nice things, give compliments.
Our first Happiness Group was a great success. Suddenly realising that time had slipped well past 11.30pm we finished off with an appreciation round and the general consensus was that we all appreciated having the opportunity to share our ideas with like-minded people. We felt energised and inspired from our discussions and left keen to develop this month’s theme of giving.
The ripple effect of our first meeting is already happening. We have set up a Face Book page where we share our ideas and experiences with each other and have recommended books around the theme of happiness. We are supporting each other to be focussed on giving this month and are relating our stories back to the group.
As we focus on giving, is it coincidence or a case of ‘you get what you give’ as those moments of receiving become as noticeable as the moments of giving?
Good things are happening.