The benefits of giving, even in your own time of need.
Mindfulness includes compassion and the understanding that we’re all connected. There is a greater good to be considered in every act we perform. Watching how this virus has spread around the world, and recognizing that those who don’t cooperate with the restrictions designed to slow it down can very negatively affect many others, has been a very strong example of this. But on the upside, many people have become more aware than ever before just how connected we all are. I think there are long-term implications from this that have the potential to make our new world a better place.
While we may all be connected and we’re all experiencing the same disruption to our daily lives, we’re not all experiencing the same circumstances. There is so much need around the world right now, it can feel pretty overwhelming. We’re already stressed out, anxious or downright scared, and thinking about doing anything beyond hunkering down and surviving probably seems impossible. But the amazing thing is, people are reaching out and helping others. It’s hard to believe that anything positive can come from such a terrible event, but evidence of just that is emerging all around the world. It restores my hope in humanity to see such acts of compassion and kindness.
Interestingly, when we help others, donate money or volunteer our services, we benefit as much if not more than the receiver of our generosity. Many studies show that giving to others can also help protect our mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep us mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. And under our current circumstances, increasing our own well-being and health is definitely a plus!
Do you have neighbors in need? Elderly acquaintances who might be alone with no support? Do you know moms and dads that might be struggling with trying to do their jobs from home while dealing with children under foot? Are there people in your community that have lost their jobs and are struggling to obtain food or other necessities? It’s time for us to pause and take stock. If you’re well and you have what you need, is there a way to offer help? Maybe you have extra toilet paper – the hottest commodity on the market. Or maybe you can make a phone call once a day to someone who is lonely. Or how about extra toys or games that are collecting dust in storage that might entertain someone else’s children to help provide relief to the parents? After sanitizing, of course. Just spend a little time considering what you might do to help even one person in your community.
It’s definitely a sign of the times that I feel warmth for my community when I see someone post a plea on nextdoor.com for an item, like toilet paper, that they simply can’t get anywhere and others immediately post that they will leave a couple of rolls on the porch for the person to pick up. The same with someone asking if anyone can pick up a prescription for them, or offering free fruit from their garden, and hundreds of other little acts of kindness that add up to a resilient community overcoming strife together. Even the smallest acts of kindness and generosity can make an enormous difference for someone in need and you’ll receive the benefit of improved health and just feeling pretty darned good about yourself.
If you haven’t lost your source of income, another easy way to help is of course through donations. Can you donate even a small amount to a charity in your community or a worthy cause?
Volunteering your time is another amazing way you can help. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, it doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness. Studies show those who give social support to others have lower blood pressure than people who don’t, and that people who give their time to help others through community and organizational involvement have greater self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who don’t.
Now you may be asking yourself how you can volunteer when you’ve been ordered to stay home. Actually, there are lots of ways to volunteer from home. I’m currently volunteering by facilitating online sessions in a global initiative called Meditate Together hosted by Mindful Leader. It’s a silent meditation followed by a reflective question and sharing, which is a half-hour long in total. There’s a session at the beginning of every hour, 24 hours a day every weekday and there are participants from all over the world. We had a soldier from Thailand during my session last night - and I can tell you that there’s something very moving about holding a space for people all over the world who just want to feel connected. And the best part is, I can volunteer from the safety and comfort of my own home.
An organization I volunteer for regularly is My Stuff Bags Foundation and I’m pleased to share an interview I had with Janeen Holmes, CEO and staunch children’s advocate.
I love that Janeen shared that we can focus on that one question, “What can you do right now,” as well as reminding us to stay present. That’s at the heart of mindfulness and if we stay focused on now, which is when life is really happening, and not on the stories we make up about what may or may not happen in the future, we can all feel better, right now. So, make a blanket, help your neighbors, volunteer online, donate money. Whatever you decide you can do right now, you’re helping others, you’re helping yourself and you’re contributing to the greater good.