There’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish from time to time. In fact, sometimes we really need to prioritise our own mental wellbeing. That being said though, if you’re being wildly selfish 24/7 – you might need to take a good look at yourself. Generosity and kindness are among some of the best feelings on earth. Why? Because being nice to others gives us that hit of oxytocin that makes us feel all the nice things inside.
Think back to a time you gave someone a banging present and you knew how good it was. Remember the moment of pure euphoria when they unwrapped it and caught a glimpse? Yep, that’s what generosity and kindness feel like – and they feel pretty damn good.
Giving is about more than top-tier presents though, it’s about showing kindness to those around us every day, all year. Giving doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, in fact, it doesn’t even have to be a present, whatever it is, it’s usually the simplest things that are most appreciated. Not only is it beneficial for those who are receiving the kindness, but it improves our own mental wellbeing, too.
Studies have shown that showing kindness through activities like volunteering can improve wellbeing and life satisfaction along with decreasing depression and lowering the risk of dying early. Not a bad deal, hey? The social aspect of volunteering is another added benefit of being more generous. Spending time in your community means you’re making new social connections and friends, which is also great for your mental wellbeing. Generosity and kindness give us a sense of value and purpose, allowing us to slow down and think about what others need. Basically, it’s the best.
We caught up with Dr Tim Sharp, ambassador for Queensland Health’s mental wellbeing campaign, Dear Mind, who was all too happy to confirm the positive benefits of generosity and kindness. “one of the best ways to feel good is to do what we can to make others feel good” he explained.
“When we give to others, when we contribute to a cause about which we’re passionate, when we volunteer or actively participate in something meaningful, we enjoy more positive emotions including more happiness,” he continued.
Dr Sharp also told us about this pretty wild concept called a ‘helpers high.’ He explained it as “a physiological reaction in which our brains and bodies release natural hormones and neurotransmitters that are like those released during heightened positive emotions.
Now that we’re in the generous spirit, here are ten fun ways to get your give on.
Don’t wait to donate
If you’re able to donate blood, it’s an amazing way to give back to the community and do your part in the health space. As long as we’re alive, we have blood coursing through our veins – so why not donate it and save a life in the process? All you have to do is book in, rock up to the appointment and sit back for a bit before enjoying an amazing cookie and chocolate milk afterward.
If it sounds super easy and rewarding, that’s because it is. The Red Cross needs at least 31,000 donations a week in order to meet demand so they’re always on the lookout for donors. Plus, once you’ve donated, you’ll get a heart-warming message to let you know where your blood is headed to save a life.
Say howdy neighbourino
We know what the neighbourly thing to do is, but how often do we actually go out of our way to help those next door? You don’t have to offer to lay their deck but lending a hand with mowing their lawn or taking their bins out is a great way to build connections with those around you. It doesn’t take much effort, but they’ll be extremely grateful – and maybe invite you in for some homemade lemonade and scones (if you’re lucky).
Get behind local biz
Shopping at your local produce market is a really simple way of giving back to local producers and your community. From the friendly butcher to the sweet lady down the road who makes pottery – putting your money towards small scale businesses is a sure-fire way to make you feel better about your purchases. Local businesses rely on support from the local community and you’d be amazed how many talented people are currently living in yours.
Plant the seeds of change
Joining a community garden is a wholesome activity that brings you closer to nature and gives you an unrivalled sense of inner peace. Getting your hands dirty will have those thumbs green in no time. Not only will spending time in nature benefit you, but it will also give your local community a beautiful place to enjoy nature that everyone can be proud of.
Take part in a community clean up
The environment is truly the most precious thing we have, so looking after it should be priority numero uno. There are community clean ups happening constantly so we can rid our beaches and parks of rubbish. Clean Up Australia has a great line-up of events and initiatives so you can help keep the country sparkling, all year round. Get those trash bags ready!
Lend a paw to our four-legged friends
There are hundreds of different animal shelters that always need a helping hand (or paw). Places like the RSPCA are always on the hunt for generous volunteers to help walk, cuddle and foster animals. This is an amazing way to give your time to precious animals who are looking for a bit of love or their forever home. Plus, cuddling puppies is good for your mental wellbeing – fact.
Show the elderly some love
Volunteering at an elderly care home is one of the most fulfilling things you can do. Plus, we’ll all be old eventually (sorry, it’s inevitable) and it’s nice to think someone might come and do the same for us. There is no shortage of aged care facilities looking for a helping hand. Whether you’re keen to knit, play music, write their autobiography, or even just to lend an ear – there’s something that everyone can offer.
Go from student to master
If you were a bit of a maths whiz back in school, then volunteering to tutor current students is a great way of giving your time and benefiting others. Let’s be real, school can be hard – so any helping hand you can give is always much appreciated.
If this sounds like something you can get around, you can volunteer to become a Learning Club Tutor with The Smith Family to help underprivileged kids who really need the help. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the look of achievement on someone’s face when they learn how to do something – it’ll give you the warm fuzzies. After all, the kids of today are our future, so we want to make sure they know their stuff.
Closer to home, there’s a high chance you’ll know someone who might need a helping hand, some advice or just want to learn something you might be able to help them with. It could be anyone from a colleague to a fellow student or sibling, it’s always worth asking.
Give beyond the grave
Donating your organs is one of the most generous things you can do because you’re literally giving life to another human. Did you know that one organ donor can change the lives of up to ten people? Of course, it’s a major decision and one you should discuss with your loved ones – but if you’re able to, it’s definitely a noble cause. It’s super easy to register as an organ donor and only takes a few minutes online so there’s zero hassle. How incredible to know we’ll still be doing good in this world, even when we’re no longer here.
Keep the bookworms wiggling
Reading a great book is one of life’s simple pleasures and one of the easiest things to pay forward. Most of the time we’ll only read a book once and leave it on a shelf to gather dust after that. But the generosity monster urges us to donate it for someone else to enjoy.
If your suburb has a local street library, consider dropping off all your old books for someone else to pick up and enjoy. And, if you ever hear of a community book drive that’s going down then be sure to get hands-on there as well.
By now you should be feeling pretty inspired to start living a kinder life filled with more generosity. Hopefully one of these ideas has tickled your fancy, but if you want even more activities, check out Queensland Health’s Your Mental Wellbeing website. We’ll leave you with these parting words of wisdom from Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Words to live by.