It’s time to add Generosity Fitness to the list of our New Year Resolutions, for the spirit and expression of generosity enhances and deepens all the other aspects of life. Generosity matters. It inspires giving and brings happiness to our lives.
This tradition of New Year Resolutions arose eons ago, inspired by the legend of the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past and the other to the future. The Romans believed Janus could forgive their transgressions, so they made offerings and promises at the beginning of each new calendar year. Janus was believed to take notice of these gifts and bless the peoples’ lives for the year. That’s where the month of January gets its name.
According to a recent NBC News poll based upon Google search terms most used in 2016, the Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 are: Get Healthy, Get Organized, Live Life to the Fullest, Learn a New Hobbies, Spend Less/Save More, Travel, Read More. Not surprisingly, these resolutions are about improving one’s life through good health, learning and see new things, and effectively managing money and material possessions. Essentially, this boils down our drive to experience happiness.
A good deal of research has been conducted about the correlation between altruistic behavior and happiness. Experiments have been conducted at various universities, including the use of brain scans that track the various pain and pleasure centers affected by altruistic behavior, such as charitable giving, helping others, and volunteer service.
Our pleasure centers light up not only when we receive money or kindness, but also when we give money away or help another out of compassion. Studies show that those who receive money are more likely to give money away, and in larger amounts than those who have not received money before being asked to give.
One Harvard Business School study looked more closely at the cause and effect relationship between giving and happiness. Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).
So, how might we fulfill our resolution for greater Generosity Fitness in 2017?
- Make a commitment to a regular practice of giving and volunteering
- Contribute the cost of your daily coffee to a cause that matters to you–or better yet, the cost of your monthly fitness or golf club membership!
- A Month of daily acts of giving and kindness
- $5.20 or $52 per week for 52 weeks of the year given to your faith community or other worthy organizations
- Sponsor a program or scholarship that will benefit to those in your community
- Make a planned gift or bequest to a cause or organization that matters most to you
- Organize a social fundraising event that brings people with common interests and a desire to make a difference in their community
- Most of all, use your imagination. Be creative. Experience the joy of cultivating generosity in the world!
May this new year bring you many blessings and great abundance~
References and Resources for this article:
Anik, Aknin, Norton & Dunn. Harvard Business School working paper, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. 2009. http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-012.pdf
Brooks, Arthur C. Who Really Cares. Basic Books. 2006.
Chan, Amanda L. Huffington Post. 2013. 7 Science-back Reasons Why Generosity is Good for Your Health.
Firestone, Lisa. Huffington Post. 2014. The Benefits of Generosity.
Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. Authors: Lalin Anik, Harvard Business School Lara B. Aknin, University of British Columbia Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School Elizabeth W. Dunn, University of British Columbia
Smith, Jordan Michael. New Republic. Sept. 2014. Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!