Do good, feel good.
Published: January 30, 2012
A generous life builds a wealth of wellness.
If you are struggling to find a direction in life right now, try giving! If you want something to do, give of yourself in some way in the service of others. You might just find that you have found your calling. You will be aligned with a harmonious purpose and will be nourished by the information carried by it.
Humanitarian worker, Dr. Scilla Elworthy describes the joy of giving from the perspective of people who have nothing, and remarks on their amazing warmth and spirit of generosity: “When you are in a country like Kenya or Uganda, you meet people who really have very, very little, but they will welcome you into their house. They will give you the last egg that they have – even if their children haven’t had an egg for two weeks, they will give it to you. And that just blows me away; that there can be such generosity among people who have nothing. And their lives are warm, they are connected, they are loving. So I don’t think it has anything to do with what we possess. I know it sounds trite, but I believe the biggest possession is joy and warmth and a loving family, and to live a life of lovingness.”
We become expanded when we give, we become more joyful, and our lives become much more fulfilling. As this pattern of giving increases in the world, through more and more people aligning with it, the old pattern of selfishness will come to an end as people start to display more of their natural tendency to kindness. People aligned with the old pattern will begin to feel their world is shrinking and becoming less fulfilling.
Scilla has observed this in her personal world: “The people I know who are really only interested in their own pleasures and their shares and their dividends, their lives are tending to close in on them, becoming less and less happy, less and less satisfying, less fulfilling. They live in gated communities and are rather nervous about who might come and take their big flat screen TVs. Their lives are getting smaller.”
She also believes that giving can bring health benefits. “I don’t think it has anything to do with possessions. Of course, it helps to have enough money to get about, to eat, to stay warm, but what it’s really about is the energy that’s available. Living a generous life, I believe, makes our bodies healthier. It is difficult to prove, but nearly all the people I know who are what you might call ‘in service to the planet’ in one way or another live long lives and are very healthy. Not without exception, but that is the norm.”
Scilla then gives us some powerful advice, echoing the words of many great philosophers and wise teachers throughout history: “It doesn’t really matter how much you have, how much you have control over, or power over. What matters is not what one’s holding in, but what one’s giving out.”
And she’s absolutely right. Modern science shows us that giving is healthy for us. Not only has it been shown to make us happier, it is also good for the heart and, of course, it’s good for the soul. Kind behavior is a way to build relationships and strengthen the emotional bonds between people. Emotional bonds produce the hormone oxytocin, which, in addition to its role in reproduction and breastfeeding, helps protect the heart and cardiovascular system from disease.
And when giving helps us to form strong relationships with each other, it even helps us to live longer, as modern research also now shows. Longevity research indicates that having good quality relationships is actually a key factor in living a long life. We are wired for relationships and so when we service them, personally and globally, as we seek to unite in the common good, we live longer, healthier lives, just as if nature is saying to us, “Yes! This is the way it’s supposed to be!”
David R. Hamilton acquired an honors degree in biological and medicinal chemistry, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry before working as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for several years. He left the pharmaceutical industry and athletics coaching in 1999 and returned to Scotland as a motivational speaker.