Is generosity in your best interest? Giving away your time and money makes you happier, more financially responsible, and can even help you get a job. All you need to do is get started.
Christmas is the season of giving, and a New Year is when people promise to become better in the year to come. If you really want to improve yourself, consider making a habit of giving away your time and money regularly. It’s not intuitive, but it will probably pay off; here’s how.
Science Proves It: Giving Makes You Happier
The moral of “A Christmas Carol” is pretty blunt: Scrooge is miserable and alone, and then ghosts teach him to be generous. The change is instant: he’s suddenly very merry, says “Bah, Humbug” considerably less and starts making friends.
Real life isn’t that simple, is it?
Well, studies show that making a habit of giving can cause happiness – and being happy makes you more generous. It’s a virtuous circle, to use a tech term. To quote a New Republic piece on the phenomenon:
Americans who describe themselves as “very happy” volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month. Those who are “unhappy”? Just 0.6 hours.
This isn’t just correlation. According to Christian Smith, author of The Paradox of Generosity, you can actually prove causation:
We argue that it involves neurochemical changes in the brain, that it gives people more pleasure chemistry in their brain, a sense of reward for having done something good.
So yeah, being generous physically alters your brain to the point where you’re happier. But if you want this kind of change, a one-time donation isn’t going to cut it: you need to make a habit of giving regularly. To quote Smith again:
One-time donations aren’t what prompts this happiness: it’s consistent, habitual giving. It has to be a practice, it has to be something that is sustained over time, that people engage with regularly.
If you find a way to give to worthy causes or volunteer on a regular basis – if you make a habit out of giving – you will be happier, the research says.
Giving Motivates You To Be Better With Your Money
You are, in all likelihood, richer than you think – you just need to keep better track of your money. Giving regularly to worthy causes might be the thing that motivates you to finally do so.
Money, economists will tell you, motivates people – but that doesn’t mean we spend our money wisely. Part of this is that we feel our money is ours, and that how we spend it only really matters to us. Why put time into being careful with our money if it doesn’t affect anyone else?
Make a habit of giving regularly, though, and suddenly the way you spend your money becomes a lot more important. Any money you waste is money you can’t give away, which means that waste affects more than you: it affects the causes you care about.
Giving, then, raises the stakes. Find something to give to regularly, and suddenly looking into places to find personal finance advice seems a lot more important.
A little bit of tech knowledge can save you thousands every year, leaving you with money you can use to support the causes you care about. Use the things you care about as motivation to make those changes.
Volunteering Is A Great Way To Meet People
Of course, giving isn’t just about money: it’s also about time. Whether it’s an animal shelter, a place of worship or your local soup kitchen, organizations near you need volunteers to do what they’re doing.
And if you volunteer for any such organization regularly, you will be spending a lot of time with people who care about the same things as you – and working towards a common cause with them. This probably means you’ll meet people that you like, and in all likelihood end up with meaningful relationships. It’s not the reason you should volunteer, but it’s certainly a nice benefit.
Volunteering Is A Great Way To Learn Or Practice Skills
If you’re unemployed and looking for some work experience – or fully employed but wanting to try something new – volunteer work is a fantastic opportunity. You’ll get hands-on experience that will stand out on your resume, and you’ll learn a lot in the process.
This being a technology blog, it’s worth pointing out that almost every nonprofit has need for at least some tech skills. Whether it’s setting up a WordPress website or cleaning up the PCs in the office so that they’ll run faster, the average MakeUseOf reader almost certainly has skills – or the ability to develop skills – organizations everywhere need.
Maybe, with your tech skill set you can join an Open Source project that’s doing social good. These two sites can give you a few clues where you can donate time and expertise.
- Code Montage
And you don’t have to be a coder to help with Open Source projects.
If you can’t find a local nonprofit you can get behind, there are online tools for finding places that need you.
Here are just a few:
- Skills To Donate: Offer your services and relevant nonprofits will get in touch with you.
- Idealist: Find organizations in need of your particular talents. Know more about Idealist.
- BoardNetUSA: You might be a good fit to serve on a nonprofit’s board; this site can help connect you.
Look for micro-volunteering opportunities online. You can find somewhere that needs your skills, and make your skills better in the process.
Volunteering Is An Affordable Way To Travel
It’s not a point everyone thinks of, but volunteering can also be an affordable way to see the world. You’ll be spending your time helping others instead of site-seeing, sure, but you’ll also get a much better idea of what life is like somewhere by volunteering than you ever would by visiting the local tourist traps. Even better: things like lodging and food are often provided.
My co-worker Justin Dennis outlined 6 ways you can volunteer and travel the world cheaply, so check that out. You might be surprised.
What Do You Give, And Why?
Do you give away your time and money regularly? Let us know which causes you support in the comments below, and what benefits you think that gives you. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Image Credits: hand give heart Via Shutterstock