“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. Mahatma Gandhi
A BBC poll suggests that almost half of adults in England experience loneliness – people of all ages and in all circumstances.
In last year’s Christmas blog I spoke about the impact of loneliness and encouraged people who were experiencing loneliness to reach out. This year I want to focus on the act of giving. Whether or not someone reaches out to us, we all need to be there to provide each other with the emotional and practical support that at times in our lives we all need.
Of course, no giving is truly altruistic. The giver benefits just as much as the recipient. Giving helps us to feel:
- More socially connected – it fosters a sense of trust and strengthens our bonds with others. The more we give the more likely we are to receive support from others when we need it.
- Happier – the act of giving activates the regions in our brains connected with pleasure, social connection and trust.
- Healthier – the more we help others the lower our blood pressure, the healthier we feel and the lower our risk of dying within the next 5 years!
- Less stressed – giving to others and creating a sense of social connectedness acts as a buffer against feelings of negative stress.
- Better about ourselves – giving boosts our self-esteem and mood and gives us a sense of purpose.
Plus, giving has been shown to be contagious, by giving to others we create a ripple effect throughout our community – encouraging others to give as well.
The tough bit though, the really tough bit, is being able to give in a way that is open hearted, generous, and without strings. Giving so that the recipient feels that they are helping us, and giving in a way that it makes it easy for people to receive. That is the challenge – giving with love.