"Giving Makes Us Happier" by Rector Chris Girata
Giving Makes Us Happier was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, October 22, 2021
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
Getting what we want when we want it might improve our moods for a while, but according to extensive research of tens of thousands of people, being generous with others is the most effective way to feel happy. We are made to be generous, and we are made to give. Happiness is connected to our giving and giving makes us happier. In fact, the surveys concluded that that average person would need more than twice their income to impact happiness as much as generosity impacts happiness and that held true for all income brackets.
Although stuff and authority might be what the world thinks makes people happy, the truth of happiness is far simpler.
Interestingly, although giving was important to happiness, how the giving was done meant just as much as the giving itself. Consider this. In our past, human communities were very small. People knew everyone in their tribe or village and being generous — giving to others — would have been incredibly personal. When someone else needed help, their need was known, and help was all about relationships. That is radically different that entering our credit card on a website to help a disembodied organization help strangers we will never meet.
It’s true that giving makes us happy, but as we consider giving, three ingredients turn good deeds into good feelings. First, connection matters. We're more likely to experience joy from helping others if we really feel connected with the people or the cause that we're helping. Rather than general charitable giving, when we are able to know those we help, the good feelings are profound. Second, when we can see the difference that our good deeds are making, that seems to really unlock the emotional benefits of generosity. The impact of our giving has a lasting benefit on our happiness. Finally, the quickest way to strip the joy of giving away is to make people feel like they've been forced to give. Empowering the free choice of givers inspires long-lasting happiness and satisfaction that encourages more giving in the future.
Being generous with others is the most effective way to feel happy.
For most of us, our lives have been made harder the last few years, and I think everyone needs a solid source of happiness. The good news is that we are naturally resilient in the face of pain and heartbreak. No matter what happens to us, we know in our soul that healing is always possible. Happiness is a way to heal when the world is hard, but we know that happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. Nobody gets happy and just stays happy forever. Happiness takes continued effort with continued decisions with every little and big fork in the journey of our life.
Giving generously, especially when you stretch yourself to give courageously and give more than you think you can, you will find a deep well of joy. When we continue to give regularly, we reinforce that joy and enter a life in which joy and happiness become a regular experience because we live more fully into who we were created to be. As we plan for the future and hope for happiness, remember that being generous whenever we can is a great way to change ourselves for good.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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