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How to Maintain The Spirit of Giving All Year
Like most human activities that depend on free cooperation, this wonderful habit will not be too long sustained if it is done with difficulty, disorder and without any real tangible returns or rewards. If you would like to create a sustainable habit of giving all through the year, here are a few suggestions to help you along the way.
Practical ways to give easily and habitually
Giving easily and habitually means not having to deliberate each time you have money whether or where to give. The following are ways to do that.
- Research causes that you want to regularly give to and decide how much you want to give to each, or even just one cause.
- Include the amount in your monthly budget or planning as a routine ''expense'' or task. If you do, you'll be able to do it continuously without much hassle, each month of the year.
(Now even if it's a small amount, making it part of the regular financial planning will not only help you give regularly, but the tracking will show you how much you've given in total, which can be really neat to know!)
There are many organized causes that have publications, newsletters and magazines that describe the work they do and the progress they make. Subscribe to these sites or publications to remind yourself of the continued need for your gifts, and the positive impact that you are making with the cooperation of many. Making it personally meaningful is what will keep the motivation to contribute alive in you.
- You can also sacrifice something specific in order to give away the money you would have spent on it. For example, let us say you have $1,000.00 to spend. Plan for everything you'd like to use this money for. Then pick one item from the list that you can do without and simply say, the money I was going to use for additional earings, I'll give away to my charity, etc.
Another way to keep the spirit of giving alive throughout is to contribute comfortable amounts or quantities of gifts, whatever they may be. Giving too much before you're ready may leave you feeling resentful or deprived or sometimes, even foolish. Start by giving small things, or small amounts of cash frequently and it'll become easier to do it routinely. Even if you give a dollar, or a pound a day or a week, that's OK You'll be able to do it easily and frequently and for a long time.
Giving away change is another good way to give small, regularly and easily. You can keep a savings cup or box at home with the pictures of those you're trying to help: Starving children, children dying of AIDS or Leukemia etc. Anytime you have some change, just throw it in there. Encourage the whole family, including small children to do it too. Then at the end of the month you can collect it and give it to the cause that you saved it for.
Killing two birds with one stone:- Find things in your possession that you don't need and get rid of them slowly by slowly, de-cluttering and making room in your life for more positive stuff. Keep special symbolic things from important phases in your life like relationships, trips, jobs and give away the other stuff. This will be a way of giving that is also a way of helping yourself.
Giving in non-monetary and non-material ways
This is one of the hardest things to do because it means actually giving yourself and human beings find it very hard to do sometimes. There are many simple ways you can do this:
- Be kind to strangers. At a queue, on a bus, anywhere. Sometimes some people can be helped in many ways by the kind gestures of strangers. Smile genuinely, warmly, lingering--this conveys genuine kindness. If a person begins a conversation with you, just listen, curiously and kindly.
- Yield in little ways to family. Say yes to requests that do not demand too much. It's amazing how unkind we often are to the closest people in our lives. Answer needs that are not articulated but that are clear to you, in a way that does not humiliate or embarrass your loved ones.
- Give forgiveness for little offences easily and quickly. Just let them off the hook, your loved ones. Don't demand some type of payment by sulking or other ways of punishing them for it--especially when they do apologize. Remember that mercy is non-deserved, it can never be earned. So don't ask people to try to earn your mercy.
- Be kind to your subordinates and neighbors. Learn their names, greet them, ask about their day sometimes--and listen when they answer!
- Make things easier for the people who clean up after you, at home or in the office! Don't yell for things you can easily get or do for yourself. Keep the mess or disorganization at a minimum so that their work will not be unnecessarily difficult.
Igniting and keeping the Spirit of Giving
You cannot give what you don't have-- there's some obvious piece of wisdom for you. This is so true in the spirit of generosity, which is really the spirit of sharing with others what is already yours.
Being grateful is not just a wonderful way of remaining cheerful, it's also the easiest way to being generous. Gratitude feels you with a sense of abundance and of confidence in providence that lead to detachment from many things.
- Count your blessings.
Meditate on your good fortune, find things to be happy about and genuinely say in your heart-- Thank you. Thank you, without asking for anything else. At least for some minutes, try to practice gratitude without seeking anything in particular. This gives you such a wonderful sense of contentment and hope that giving becomes a way of extending that good fortune.
- Give without expecting any clear, immediate and/or material returns.
Search yourself for the motivations you have to give. Don't give just because this is what decent people do. Find something you truly care about, and do some soul searching until you come to an unselfish motivation to give. The conviction of providence and gratitude that we discussed earlier constitute good, clear, and unselfish motivations to give.
- Keep track of concrete blessings and spiritual rewards that follow acts of kindness.
This may sound like a direct contradiction of what we've just said: to give unselfishly and unexpectantly. How do we reconcile the two? This step comes not during the giving, but in other times--when we are not really doing any giving perse.
The blessings don't have to be monetary or material. Cultivate a habit of noting down every wonderful thing that brings you happiness each day, and to see how acts of generosity are often returned in bigger and more profound ways. Reviewing this from time to time will help keep your generosity alive--it'll remind you that you're always cared for and indeed outdone in generosity by providence.
Don't forget to give to you too!
There are many people who take self-care for granted, ending up resentful and irritable with no one wanting to be around them-don't be one of those people. Enjoying the gifts of providence to you will not only keep you grateful and happy, but it will make it easier to share with those who are less fortunate in different ways when you meet them.
- Take some time off to do stuff that you really enjoy.Re-engage your passion, or your hobies if you don't yet know what your passions are, whatever they may be- knitting, swimming, crafts. Do this regularly.
- Treat yourself once in a while. Give yourself something you really enjoy. Make sure they are things that you genuinely take pleasure in and that don't leave you feeling bad afterwards. That is: genuine pleasures and not emotional cravings in disguise. It could be curling up with a good book, a movie or even ice-cream, even shopping.
- You can stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye and repeat the affirmations confidently, with effort, until you can believe the words. Do it out loud when you have privacy.
- Place printed/written affirmations everywhere: in your bedroom, your office, or any other place you normally visit several times a day.
- Pick ones that seem to have a deep ring to them for you.
- Repeat them several times a day.
- Positive affirmations are a wonderful way of taking care of the inner you. They are an excellent shot of hope and positive moods in the middle of the day, as well as a sense of well-being. My personal favorite is: "Everyday and in every way, I am getting better and better'' by Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie.
- Soul care: Discover the assurance of unconditional love in yourself; Self-worth that is rooted in deeper truths and not stuff you own or the way other people see you. To do this, use prayer and meditation.