This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about Generosity — the instinct we have to share with others, and the mutual benefits that giving can confer, not just mentally and emotionally but also at the physiological level.
From the surge of feel-good compounds our bodies release in response to generous acts, to the value of giving others the benefit of the doubt, we explore the ways that generosity serves both giver and recipient.
We also consider the ways that giving more than you can share joyfully tends backfire, creating anger, resentment, and regret.
Finally, we offer some experiments to help you explore your own generous impulses and refine them in ways that work for you.
“Generosity” Episode Highlights
- The science of altruism — the body’s release of pro-social, anti-inflammatory, feel-good chemicals in response to doing good things for others
- Why giving anonymously seems to have special benefits, and why any giving is good
- Dallas and Pilar share some if their recent experiences with generosity
- Pilar talks about the value of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, finding others right the way they are, and other forms of generosity that may be even more meaningful than gifts of money, goods, services, or time
- Dallas reflects on the value of compassion and understanding — believing that people are always doing the best they can in that moment, and relating to them from that more generous frame of mind
- How increasing the generosity of your viewpoints, attention, and relating to others directly changes your experience of the world around you
- How Dallas’s generosity of attention recently brought Pilar to tears — and the rareness of that sort of continuous, caring, “tell me more” focus on others
- The irony of a culture where material wealth is increasing, but everyone feels like they have less time, energy, and attention to share
- How “duty-based” giving can play out negatively (i.e. with judgment) in soup kitchens and other charitable settings
- Is it really best to give ’til it hurts — until you notice, or until it feels really, really good? How and why to make sure you’re giving in ways that feel great, do good, and make you want to do more
- The value of regarding others with “soft eyes,” and intentionally relating from a heart-centered place
- Tips for coming back to gratitude
The next time you have a conversation that is difficult, charged, or contentious, stand your ground and remain in integrity, but soften your face. Notice how things change when you feel and project openness and connectivity.
Focus a lot of intense generosity on one person for one day. Get creative about how many ways you can be kind and generous with them, and notice how that affects you both.
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- Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
- NPR TED Radio Hour segment on networks and how trees generously collaborate, rather than compete.
- Research from Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky on generosity as a common trait of happy people, a benefit of being happy and an essential element of sustainable happiness.
- “A Behavioral Analysis of Altruism” via the journal, Behavioral Processes.
- “Five Ways Giving is Good for You” via Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
- The book Give and Take by Adam Grant — how personal success is tied to our ability to connect with and give to others.
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