Lesson 7- Do good feel good

Giving is living – Serve

Service to others matters.

It is the recipe for deep emotional richness and happiness. Of all species, humans seem to be wired to help others. Selfless behaviour is shown. Through giving we receive; this is a paradox.

Volunteering is valuable.

Studies have shown that volunteering often increases participants wellbeing and health. Happiness is not necessarily equated with receiving a high salary or a bonus; we can be in charge of the outcome. Service-orientated people, such as lawyers who help the disadvantaged and those in helping professions are motivated by the thought of helping others rather than the size of the monetary reward received. You may know some people who have spent their lives making money and come to retirement wondering about their contribution to society and the meaning of life.

The immune system is boosted by altruistic behaviour.

Individuals given to pursuing self-gratification (hedonistic) do not experience a boost in immune system functioning whereas those given to finding meaning and who strive to fulfil some noble purpose, often service, do receive benefits.

Reaching out to others is an antidote to depression.

Depressed people tend to focus increasingly inwards and to entertain negative thoughts. Reaching out to others improves such individuals’ chances of moving out of their depression.

Reaching out to others is the secret to happiness.

The father of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman, has said: “scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable increase in wellbeing (happiness) of any exercise we have tested.”

How to serve smart.

Serving does not need to be a full-time occupation. Some participate in Random Acts of Kindness and gain a real benefit. Others, who have been financially successful, devote the latter part of their lives to service that makes a difference. Others give to charities or organize benefit events. There as wise suggestions so as to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by others. These are:

a)     Serve sincerely. Each individual has a unique contribution to make to society. Study what you are good at and put your efforts into the endeavour. Do not compare yourself with others; this is the worst possible course to take. Just do your creative best!

b)     Serve with your signature strengths. We all possess different abilities and derive enjoyment from different activities. No glove fits all. You are likely to be the happiest when you utilize your signature strengths. These can be determined by taking the signature strengths questionnaire on the University of Pennsylvania website (https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/quiet-the-power-introverts/201104/quiz-discover-your-signature-strengths). The challenge is to find that activity where what you love, what you are good at and what serves others all intersect.

c)      Serve sustainably. Both receiving without giving and giving to excess leads to an unbalanced existence. Successful givers read the signs of burn-out and know that it is alright to be receivers too. It has been truly said that one cannot pour from an empty cup.

d)     Fill your cup. Strategies mentioned in other presentations are helpful in keeping your cup full. If you do not seek to fill your own cup, then burn-out can easily follow and with it discouragement. Some of the strategies mentioned include: speaking positively, laughing, taking time to be active, getting outside, spending time with friends, and taking time to rest.

Reap what you sow.

Perhaps the best advice comes from Martin Seligman who said, if you want to be happy “do something to make someone else happy!” Essentially, we reap what we sow.

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