The Connection Between Giving and Gratitude
It’s the time of year when giving is on everybody’s mind. It often feels overwhelming to be asked to donate to so many causes. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and do more. How does one even begin to feel worthy if they have little to give? For some, this time of year brings feelings of inadequacy. I don’t have enough to give my own family; how can I possibly give more? Or I’m struggling with my lupus, I can’t possibly be expected to give more of myself. Then the guilt sets in. It’s a delicate balance between altruism and mental and physical stability. Tis the season, right?
According to Psychology Today, “There is significant scientific literature showing that people who feel gratitude are less likely to be depressed and worried, and more likely to feel satisfied with their lives.” (Psychology Today, 27 June 2017).
Train The Brain
Training the brain to have gratitude is, in essence, an important component of framing the mind toward giving. It becomes an essential element of a person’s psyche. In fact, most scientific studies and research over the past decade support the idea that people who practice gratitude have fewer physical symptoms of illness, less depression, and a more positive outlook. They achieve more and stress a lot less.
But the question remains, with so much pressure to give and so much daily stress in our lives, how can we accomplish what seems impossible? How can we give more money and time when we ourselves have less? The answer is kind of simple…start small.
To begin, stop thinking in terms of gratitude having to be big. Everything in the United States is big. Big money, big giving, big attitude, big car. The bigger the better as we say. But the truth is, it’s learning to appreciate the small things in life. For example, perhaps the lottery came and went without your numbers being called, but maybe you did find an extra $20.00 in your coat pocket last week. No, that $20.00 won’t solve all your problems, but it may buy you that extra cup of coffee or pay for that expensive box of cereal your child wanted last week. Having gratitude for small blessings makes us appreciate the little things that make life so incredible.
Practicing gratitude is not always easy. It’s not hard to look at the world around you and think I wish I had a bigger house, or I wish I could walk better, but my joints just won’t cooperate. With gratitude, again, we start small. Instead of thinking I wish for this or that, a person who thinks with a grateful mind will be found thanking the universe for their blessings. They will stop and say thank you for even the smallest of successes. A lupus patient might wake up and say thank you to God for allowing them a day with fewer aches and pains. Or they may take advantage of their flare-free day by running to the store or going for a walk. Even when they are down, they think up. Is this easy? Not necessarily but training the brain to focus on small successes and wins, frames the mind towards an attitude of gratitude.
Connect The Dots
Once we’ve found our inner grateful nature, we can connect this to all aspects of our lives, including giving during the holiday season. Again, start small. There are so many advertisements and friends asking for money. The key is to make a budget and choose one or two special charities. Believe it or not, five dollars is a big deal for a non-profit. You’d be amazed at how much these small donations make a difference.
Sometimes the greatest donations are those made of your time. A donation does not have to be monetary. Volunteering an hour of your time is an incredible way to give back. Charities, churches, and other social organizations have all kinds of projects that volunteers can help with. Including projects for those with differently abled bodies and/or illnesses.
Lend An Ear
The greatest donation one can possibly make is lending a listening ear or supporting a friend going through a difficult time. Lupus patients often feel like they don’t have the ability to do as much as others. Sometimes there is truth in this. But there are flare-free times when patients can give of their heart. They can pick up the phone and call a lonely elderly neighbor or friend in need. They can contact a fellow lupus patient and provide empathy. Truly, giving is best when it comes from the heart without anything expected in return.
Practicing gratitude is learning how to see the glass half full. It’s cultivating your mind to appreciate the little things in life. If you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough. If you focus on what you do have, your heart will always be full. Perhaps it’s best said by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”