So much of today’s conversations are around the pursuit of happiness. It seems to be intangible but important to most of us. If we take a step back and ask ourselves one root question we can begin a journey filled with happiness. What is one thing we can do to increase our happiness that also helps us be more healthy? The answer: Giving with care. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) love to share research, ideas and inspiration on how we can harness giving to help promote happiness in our lives and the lives of others.
Giving with Care Helps Us Feel Happy
UCA has many ways to share caring near and far, with ourselves, and those we hold close to our hearts. Some of these are in the forms of gifts, resources and tools, and the gift of time. All of these options help us feel happy. It is our joy to hear that there have been numerous studies on this very subject. These studies conclude that giving to others actually helps promote happiness. “Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results [in comparison to her colleges] when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.These good feelings are reflected in our biology.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) What else is great is that happiness can be increased by acts of caring and kindness. For example, the giving and receiving of Swedish massages reducing anxiety, depression, and stress hormones.
There are many studies out there on happiness and many are very informative on the impact of caring acts. One such study was done by researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. In this study the researchers wanted to see if there is a difference of happiness levels in the brain between just saying that you will give verses actually giving. “(They) told 50 people they’d be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.” (https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4857777/generosity-happiness-brain/) What is interesting is that the researchers began the study by asking each participant to think about someone they would like to give a gift to and place a monetary value on that generosity. Then they scanned the brains of the participants with an MRI machine to measure the activity levels of areas in the brain that are associated with social behavior, decision-making, generosity and happiness. “Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves.” (https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4857777/generosity-happiness-brain/) Ultimately, it didn’t matter how much the participants spent on others. The results showed that giving helped with increased feelings of happiness. We are happy to read that the participants in this study reported higher levels of happiness upon completion of the experiment. There was an additional surprise for the researchers during these scans. The participants also had more interaction between altruism and happiness!
Altruism, tell me more please?
Altruism is when we put the needs of others before those of our own. Some examples are holding the door open for someone entering or leaving at the same time as you, offering your bus seat to a senior, or our favorite is offering to pick up coffee our colleagues. These care-giving acts have positive effects upon our mental wellbeing and helps reduce stress.
If we feel happier, then we tend to be healthier too! In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) This evidence is backed up by a 1999 study led by Doug Oman of UC Berkeley in California. He found that of the seniors who volunteered for multiple organizations were almost 50% less likely to die than non-volunteers. “Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) Why is this connection between giving and happiness so strong? Most of the research published on the web shows that when people give and volunteer, it activates areas of the brain connected with pleasure, trust and social connection. We often feel this as a warm glow or what is often referred to as the ‘helper’s high.’
Ideas on Ways to Give
Giving with care is a great way to promote happiness in our lives and those we encounter. Now the question comes into play, how do we pick one or more ways to give? Do we start big or small? With those we know, or with someone we pass on the street? The truth is that we can start giving in so many ways. Since there are so many ways to give, we at UCA want to list some ideas.
Happiness comes in so many forms. Giving is a great and easy start. We have big smiles at UCA when ever we have a chance to give with care. We are happy to be able to share this blog with our readers and members. Thank you for the gift of your time while reading this blog.
Unified Caring Association (UCA) strives to continue promoting caring around the world. But how can someone start performing caring acts? One of the best ways is to start close to home. Help out at a local food bank or shelter or donate clothing or personal care items to those in need. UCA did just this in our local community where our headquarters are located.
UCA jumped into action when we learned about an urgent need for supplies at Great Northern Services (GNS). GNS serves about 10,000 lunches over the summer months to school aged children up to the age of 18 years old. GNS sponsors the USDA Summer Food Service Program donates bag lunches during the work week (Monday-Friday) in the summer months of June, July and August with no cost to the children’s families that receive the lunches.
Supplies that were needed included kitchen utensils, pots, food containers and lunch bags for every child and every lunch all summer long. These supplies were needed by the teams to put the lunches together and deliver them to the kids. We are happy to report that smiles were on everyone’s faces as the lunches were served up. It was a huge pleasure to help support the caring efforts provided by GNS and the USDA Food Service Program to serve up nutritious meals in the community of Siskiyou county. We continue sending our best wishes to all of the teams and every child they serve!
When the news of the Camp Fire reached the Unified Caring Association (UCA) office our team was hopeful. We hoped that the fire would be quickly controlled. Our prayers went out to all humans and animals that they would escape the fires unharmed. And we sent our caring to fire victims. We were devastated to hear that the entire city of Paradise, California was incinerated. The news reported 18,793 structures were destroyed, and that the fire had spared nothing, leaving total devastation. Our hearts were broken, and we wondered how the survivors could go on. UCA reached out to various agencies in hope of finding a meaningful way to help. Understandably, emergency agencies were over-burdened with phone calls. Many lacked the manpower to handle the donations they were receiving. Luckily, our fearless team member Luna kept at it! She was determined to make sure that UCA extended our caring to fire victims. So, she kept making calls. Eventually, Luna made a connection with a wonderful woman named Nanette, and magic happened!
A Caring Hero
Nanette is a caring hero for many reasons. She runs a non-profit unrelated to the fire effort to begin with! Nanette had heard that her friend, a volunteer at her non-profit, had lost her home in the fire. Time went by and Nanette was unable to reach her. So, Nanette set out to find her friend. While searching for her friend, she saw first-hand the devastation of the Camp Fire. Luckily, her friend was located safely, and Nanette decided to create a caring event to help the fire victims. She set out to give those who had lost so much a caring holiday! Nanette researched the needs of the community and created a caring holiday event!
Some UCA Support
The UCA CARE team asked Nanette to share with us how she felt we could help the most. She explained that expectant mothers had lost everything in the fires – they had nothing for their newborns, no blankets, no clothes. We were told that the children had lost all of their toys and holiday cheer was in short supply. As a result, the UCA team of elves immediately swung into action! No baby item was left on the shelf! We bought baby sleepers, onesies, t-shirts, leggings, blankets, coats, socks, sweatpants, sweatshirts, pajamas and cozy clothes for toddlers. In addition, we also bought 80 gifts for children – backpacks, school supplies, plush animals so they would have something to hold, creative art kits and books. Plus, we sent cheery Christmas decorations, notes of encouragement and … our hearts … we truly sent them our hearts.
A Caring Holiday Miracle
And so it was, on December 22 at the Eagle Lodge in Chico, California a holiday party was held. People who had lost everything came to celebrate the miracle of togetherness. Children sat on Santa’s lap and received their gifts. Families ate together and for a moment in time, caring filled a place in their hearts where fear and sadness had once taken hold.
Our hearts go out to all who suffered in the California fires this year. May they be cared for, supported and loved through the challenging days ahead as they rebuild their lives. We are incredibly grateful to the firefighters and first responders that fearlessly serve and protect us all day after day. Our hearts are touched by all of the caring heroes in the world who miraculously appear when tragedy strikes. In tragedy, we are often reminded of the true value of caring. If there is caring in the world, we can never lose everything.