During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I think we all know that the most appreciated gifts are those that we give from the heart. These gifts are usually simple acts of service - a listening ear, a smile or note of concern. Philosophers know that giving is key to our own sense of purpose and happiness:
"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity."
"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."
"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."
But science agrees. Giving changes us, even physically. According to an article in LiveScience:
In a 1988 piece for Psychology Today, Luks looked at the physical effects of giving experienced by more than 1,700 women who volunteered regularly. The studies demonstrated that a full 50 percent of helpers reported feeling "high" when they helped others, while 43 percent felt stronger and more energetic.
I have one simple message to offer and it's this: giving is the most potent force on the planet. Giving is the one kind of love you can count on, because you can always choose it: it's always within your power to give. Giving will protect you your whole life long.
Most of us can recall with radiant clarity those moments when giving was receiving, when another's happiness was our own. After fifty-five years on this earth, I, like you, hold those moments as my most precious. But I also know about the power of giving because, as head of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL), I've funded studies and seen scientific proof. Pioneering scientists across many disciplines are pursuing a whole new topography of research focused on the traits and qualities that create happiness, health, contentment, and lasting success in life. These scientists are discovering the deep, remarkable impact of benevolent behavior on mental and physical health. Personally, I am now convinced that giving is the answer to the malaise that corrodes many lives today, a malaise born of too much "bowling alone," as the sociologist Robert Putnam describes our fragmented lives.
You wish to be happy? Loved? Safe? Secure? You want to turn to others in tough times and count on them? You want the warmth of true connection? You'd like to walk into the world each day knowing that this is a place of benevolence and hope? Then I have one answer: give. Give daily, in small ways, and you will be happier. Give and you will be healthier. Give, and you will even live longer.
Generous behavior shines a protective light over the entire life span. The startling findings from our many studies demonstrate that if you engage in helping activities as a teen, you will still be reaping health benefits sixty or seventy years later. And no matter when you adopt a giving lifestyle, your well-being will improve, even late in life. Generous behavior is closely associated with reduced risk of illness and mortality and lower rates of depression. Even more remarkable, giving is linked to traits that undergird a successful life, such as social competence, empathy, and positive emotion. By learning to give, you become more effective at living itself.
Beginning on Monday, the Myeloma Crowd will share 12 Days of Myeloma Giving. Each day we will share something that you can give to lift others. These gifts will saves lives, lengthen lives and make lives happier and more meaningful -- maybe even your own.
Watch for each day of Myeloma Giving starting on Monday, December 10, 2018 and then give that gift. You'll be glad you did.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of Myeloma Crowd by HealthTree and the HealthTree Foundation.