Why do you give back?

The answer to this question may be multi-faceted, and difficult to answer in just a single sentence. Is it because you feel passionate about a particular cause or certain people in need?  Do you want to be a role model for your children and others? Have you experienced the sense of fulfillment that assisting others brings to your life? Drilling down on your motivations can help determine what cause is most aligned with your decision to give back.

The truth is, acts of giving permeate our daily lives in ways we might not even realize. Helping is programmed into who we are as human beings.  The power of collective connection that ensured evolutionary survival can, in 2020, still protect and transform lives in a myriad of ways. Embrace it and feel part of something bigger!

One significant way to give back is to forge a career path of serving the public. For more than 30 years, Karen McCleave did so as an Assistant Crown Attorney in presenting criminal cases to the court on behalf of the community. She worked with victims, many of whom are vulnerable and disadvantaged, to ensure they felt included in the process. Outside of the courtroom, Karen raised funds to support local, Canadian and international charities. She also volunteered at such programs as Salvation Army, Courthouse Food Bank Drive, and High School Mock Trial Program.

“I think giving back is a responsibility,” she says.  “We all share this life walk. It is not “if”, but “how” we can help each other. Each of us has gifts to benefit the world. What will you offer? The effect can be synergistic to others and yourself for the benefits that ensue.”

Research has shown that giving can make people experience happiness, and happy people tend to give more. 

Here are five ways you are rewarded by the act of giving back.

Fosters Social Connection:

Getting involved in local initiatives is a great way to meet new people and form friendships. It keeps you engaged, especially in these current times of uncertainty and challenge. (For now, involvement can be accomplished in ways that do not require in-person contact. Ask how the organization you want to assist has adapted to accommodate.)  There is a comfortable bond that quickly forms when you join like-minded people to achieve a common goal. As well, we feel closer to those in need, leading to better understanding of their lives.

Author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky writes: “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably and this fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

Teaches You Something:

Whether you volunteer at an animal shelter, organize a fundraiser, or sit on a board of directors for an agency, you will learn a lot!  That experience can also benefit your career in developing skill sets and knowledge. When lawyer Karen McCleave devoted years on the board of an agency helping children and youth with mental health challenges, she developed better insight into the behaviour of some people she encountered in her cases.

Good for Your Health:

Did you know one of the benefits of giving back to your community is that it is actually good for your health?  Studies have shown that those who spend more time volunteering have lower blood pressure, less depression and anxiety, lower levels of stress and increased happiness.  

Deborah Fields, a licensed clinical professional counselor explains, “Charitable giving and volunteering are associated with increased activity in a brain area that functions as part of the reward system,” says Fields. “These changes within the brain help to explain why helping others has multiple health benefits.”

Read More: 5 Reasons Giving Back to the Community Should Be a Major Goal for Businesses

Sense of Purpose:

Are you feeling in a rut, that each day has a similar routine and experience, reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day? Giving back builds meaning and purpose.  It takes you out of a stale routine and alters that complacent comfort zone. Wake up with the awareness that you can advance greater good and change lives!

Makes Your Community a Better Place:

Giving back is rewarding because it results in a better place to live and work. Regardless of the charity or cause, you have the power to address issues impacting your community by actively joining networks with other people to attain or, at least, advance the objectives.

Your form of giving back is as unique as you are but know that it all matters. Helping out is much more than a chore. Find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process! Harness that inner goodness and let the fulfillment of helping others enrich your life, too.