Give, Serve, and Be Happy
This month we continue our discussion around money, time, and happiness. Is there a way to spend your money and time that will bring you more happiness or joy?
The short answer is yes. At least temporarily. Keep reading below as we dive into the how.
Give it Away
A wise man once said, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.” On the surface, this seems counterintuitive. How could giving be better than getting?
If you watch kids opening presents on their birthdays or around Christmas, you’ll think this statement is crazy. That is if you only focus on the kids opening their presents.
If you zoom out though, you’ll see what He meant in saying “it’s better to give than receive.” Look at the faces of the people who have given the gifts.
The grandparents who spent weeks thinking about what to get their grandbabies. Then they grabbed something extra they saw while shopping that they knew little Johnny or Suzy would love.
Or watch the mom or dad watch as their child opens the gift they’ve been waiting to give since they first heard them mention it. Or the trip to Disney they’ve been saving for, for over a year.
Better yet, watch the little kid, who even though they asked for 20 toys themselves while shopping, is so proud of the toy they picked out for their friend. Look in their eyes as they watch with great anticipation their friend open their gift.
When it’s present time at every little kid’s party I’ve been to (and that’s quite a bit with an 8 and 4 year old), you will hear the kids say almost in unison “open mine first!”
There has to be something to the thought of it being better to give than to receive.
Is There Any Proof?
There have been numerous studies on generosity and happiness. All that I’ve found seem to have the same consensus, that giving is better than receiving.
In one study, professors Tobler and Fehr from the University of Zurich split participants into two groups. Both groups were given an equal amount of money every week for four weeks.
One group was asked to make a public pledge to be generous with their money and the other group was told to spend it on themselves.
A lot was tested, but the biggest takeaway for me was that ALL of the participants who performed an act of generosity viewed themselves as happier at the end of the experiment.
So it seems that the giving of our money does make us happier. What about our time?
Serving, Volunteering, and Happiness
Let me start this section with a couple of requests.
First, think of the last time you had nothing to do. What did you do? Sleep, read a book, binge watch a Netflix show, play golf…etc.
Next, think of the last time you went out of your way to volunteer to help someone or a group of people. Maybe you passed out meals at a homeless shelter, helped out the foster community, taught underprivileged kids a skill…etc.
Now try to remember how you felt after each of those experiences? Which one left you feeling happier? My guess is the time you spent helping someone else left you feeling better than the time you spent on yourself.
Please don’t take this as me saying we should never do anything for ourselves. I just want to illuminate the fact that when we spend our time on others, it’s not just the others that benefit.
My guess is you’ve either said or heard someone say something like this: “I got more out of that than they did.”
I know I’ve said that. In fact, one of the best things I got to do when I played professional baseball was visiting children’s hospitals. It was heartbreaking seeing those little kids sick, but it was also such a joy to have the opportunity to brighten their day. I left every single time though saying “I got more out of it than they did.”
Seeing how much it meant to them, meeting their parents, and hearing their stories was so inspiring to me. I can’t think of anything I’ve done for myself that can replicate how I felt leaving those hospitals.
Just like with money, there have been many studies done on volunteering and its benefits. The findings span from confirming that volunteering makes people happier to volunteering extends your life.
One study found that volunteering does make one happier. The Journal of Happiness Studies examined data from almost 70,000 people from the UK over nearly 20 years. The participants were asked questions about their volunteering habits as well as about their mental health.
People who did volunteer were more satisfied with their lives and in better overall health. This study also found that those who volunteered frequently experienced greater benefits.
This also found that happier people tend to spend more time volunteering, but that you don’t need to be happy to benefit from volunteering.
The study put a dollar amount on the value of volunteering. They found that for a person earning an average middle-class salary, volunteering would be like getting an additional $1,100 per year.
Another study found that elderly people who volunteer had a 44% less mortality over 5 years than those who didn’t. This study also found that those who volunteered at two or more organizations had a 63% lower mortality than those who did not volunteer at all.
The study factored in many things such as health, age, health habits…etc.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not trying to convince you that you can’t spend any of your time or money on yourself. My goal is to get you to just think about how you spend both.
If you fast forward 20 years and look back, would you say you spent them both well? Or would you say that you wish you’d spent them better? Spent them more wisely?
None of us are going to be perfect and we all have things we probably spend too much money on. Mine are golf and food.
I do think it’s a good practice to step back occasionally and take inventory of where we’re spending both our time and money. I’d encourage you to do that.
If you’d like someone to guide you through that process, please connect with me. These conversations are the most fun for me.
Lastly, the acts of giving and serving will add happiness to your life, but as I mentioned above, it’s only temporary. I believe there’s only one way to remove the temporal lid on joy and happiness and His name is Jesus. I’d also be happy to talk to you about this as well.
Did You Know?
People making between $100,000 and $500,000 are the least charitable in terms of the percentage they give. That group on average gives 2.9% of their income. In contrast, the group making less than $50,000 gives on average 8.4% of their income.
“There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things”
– Mother Teresa
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