Generosity is encouraged to help and serve others, but is there anything in it for us? Many psychological experiments have shown that a generous nature is directly related to our own level of happiness. That’s right; by improving the lives of others we are simultaneously improving our own life.
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One of the major causes of depression is a lack of purpose, by donating our time and resources to a larger cause we feel more connected and purposeful in the world. This is validates the findings of Andrew Solomon study on the characteristics of depression. He found selfishness to be the main cause of suffering and altruism to be the essential ingredient of true happiness; those who believe themselves to be happiest are also the most altruistic.
In fact, the more we give the more we feel blessed with what we have. Generosity has a knock on effect of appreciation for what we do have, bringing our focus to all the resources that are available to us instead of the sense of lacking that we constantly face. Giving brings upon a sense of abundance, this feeling abundance attracts even more resources into our lives. The mechanics of this is explained by the Law of Attraction. Altruism not only makes you happier it also welcomes abundance of wealth and value into your life.
‘Survival of the fittest’ suggests that the more selfish you are the higher your chances of genetic survival, but in fact cooperative behavior, can be useful to the survival and proliferation of the species. When we work together for a goal that everyone benefits from we realize how interdependent and connected we are. Altruism and compassion are much more fundamental states that we can inhabit. It is our true nature to be helpful and caring. Destructive mental patterns are deviations that gradually distance us from our true nature; to the point that we forget that at our very core we are all good at heart.
It serves a much greater good when our decisions are heartfelt instead of being motivated by pity, obligation or self image. Such a utilitarian choice does not result from a cold-blood calculation, but an act from genuine compassion in the present moment. Martin Seligman found that altruism causes happiness when is it spontaneous and draws on humane qualities. We feel joy far greater than from entertainment/socializing, generating and expressing kindness quickly dispels suffering and replaces it with lasting fulfillment.
A study of altruistic behavior shows a sense of belonging has considerable bearing on the manifestation of altruism. The more we feel connected to the person in need the greater our chance of helping. Yoga makes us feel more connected to each other, to our energy and to nature, the point of our practice is to expand our awareness and sensitivity, starting with our true nature and extrapolating to everything around us. We learn to feel connected to the energy of the world, gradually extending that sense of belonging to all beings. Not seeing himself as the center of the universe, he is open to others and sees himself as part of a web of interdependence.
We must feel a sense of responsibility not only for our work and family but also for humanity at large. It is important that we strive for a higher goal, adopt an altruistic motivation and endeavor to help create a positive outcome. As Martin Luther King once said: ‘Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good’ be a steward for goodness and peace.