Does giving make you happy or are you happy because you are giving? Giving your time, paying it forward or showing your gratitude to people who need it, allows you to not only appreciate what you have in your life a little more, but it allows the people you are helping to not feel so alone.
Change starts one person at a time, big or small, the littlest gesture; smiling at a stranger when you pass them on the street or saying ‘hi’ to a co-worker you don’t normally interact with. A smile begets a smile and can go a long way, it is the domino effect of life that has actually been proven. If you can lift someone’s mood, they then pay it forward and lift someone else’s mood, and the domino’s start to fall.
Scientists have recently been studying how volunteering affects the psyche in a positive way and keeps the body healthy. Helping others has been shown to lower blood pressure, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and help to reduce hyper-tension.
According to Help Guide, the biggest impact on a community is its volunteers; “volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.” This glue is what creates the boost in overall well-being that giving back tends to make you feel.
5 Easy Ways to Pay it Forward
- Smile More. This is simple enough and doesn’t require hours of your time to do it. Professor Ulf Dimberg from the Uppsala University in Sweden, conducted a smiling experiment with 120 volunteers. This study showed, “how your unconscious mind exerts direct control of your facial muscles”. Meaning, a “mirror neuron” in the brain triggers the recognition of a smile and mimic’s it, making smiles contagious.
- Volunteering at an Animal Shelter works wonders on your overall psyche, as well as the animals that you socializing with, and the staff at the facility that is generally overworked. Studies have shown that spending time with nature’s most loveable creatures helps to relieve depression and lower overall stress. It gives people, especially aging individuals, purpose in life other than themselves and something to look forward to.
- Give Back to Your Community through volunteering at shelters or soup kitchens is a great way to connect with some of those that need it most. There are many deserving people who have fallen on hard times and can use some sort of help up. Whether it is through food, sharing job skill information or donating clothes that are useful for job interviews.
- Volunteer Your Time for Kids. There are many after school programs that need volunteers for tutoring, day care or mentoring situations. For instance, you can become a big brother or big sister to a child who can benefit from your guidance.
- Visit Local Senior Homes, walk through, say hello, listen to their stories and tell your own. Or you can run a craft or dancing class; the seniors appreciate the company more than you know.
When you feel happier from the inside, it exudes through every pore, it is contagious; it is the domino effect. Next time you come across someone who is a little more grouchy than they should be, don’t let your mind mimic the negative, respond instead with a smile and hopefully change their day around.