How to Be a More Generous Person
Generosity is the act of being kind, selfless, and giving to others. Despite being an act that is done to benefit others' well-being, generosity also paradoxically increases our well-being. So being generous is a fantastic way to improve your mental health and well-being. Not sure how to do it? Read on to discover how to be a more generous person.
Why generosity is good for you
Generosity is a good thing for our mental health and well-being because when we give to someone we care about, we make it more likely for them to give to us, making us more likely to give to them, and so on. As a result, regions of our brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust light up, making us feel all warm and gooey inside.
One strategy is to play “I Spy.” It might seem silly, but naming different objects you see around the room can help you redirect your thoughts to other more mundane things, so that your emotions can get a rest and start to calm down. Another strategy to redirect your thoughts is to get up, do something, or change your surroundings — for example, you could excuse yourself to go to the restroom, or if the situation allows, go for a short walk. This approach helps give you a moment to reset and take your thoughts in a new direction.
Some tips on how to be a more generous person:
Why generosity is exponential
When it comes to improving our happiness and well-being (not sure how well you are? Take this well-being quiz), generosity is a good choice because it has ripple effect. If someone else sees us do something kind or generous, it actually makes them more likely to be generous too. Even saying a simple, “Thank you”, can inspire both of you, and those watching, to be more generous. This is how generosity creates a ripple effect, helping us feel happier and less lonely.
So what stops us? Why aren’t we all just generous all the time?
What are the precursors to becoming a more generous person?
It turns out that building positive thinking skills is an important precursor to getting the most we can out of generosity. Why? Because positive emotions—like gratitude, joy, or awe—make us more likely to give. The happier we feel when we give, the more likely we are to give to others again in the future. And the more grateful we are, in general, the more we enjoy the experience of witnessing other people benefiting from our gifts. So if we're having a hard time being more generous, we can benefit from developing our positive thinking skills.
How do we become a more generous person?
Once we are open to trying to become more generous (either to increase our own happiness or the happiness of others) how might we do it? We could give gifts on holidays, to acknowledge accomplishments, or just because we felt like it (that’s my favorite time to give a gift). We can also practice random acts of kindness—for example, by leaving a kind note for a co-worker, emailing a family member to tell them your grateful for something they did, or buying lunch for a friend.
How to make generosity more impactful
To make giving even more rewarding, focus on giving in ways that make a positive impact in someone else’s life (not just your life). The more we believe that what we give will be valuable or useful to others, the better it feels. And the more we know about how the receiver will use the gift, the more we enjoy giving. We really do want to know not only that we are making a difference, but how we are making a difference. So give thoughtfully and intentionally. It just feels better—both to us and to the gift recipient.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is the founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at UC Berkeley, she started building online courses, apps, and products to boost well-being—products that have reached more than a million people. Now an author at Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis's expertise on how to boost well-being reaches people all across the world.