Mind & Body

Open Hearts Have Open Hands

Generosity doesn't require material riches, but rather a rich heart
TIMEDecember 23, 2021

When we’re generous, it’s generally something we do to benefit another’s well-being, but paradoxically, it increases our well-being as well. Being generous significantly boosts our mental health and sense of accomplishment in life.

Besides all that, it feels terrific.

Generosity Is a Lifestyle

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines generous as “willing to give help or support, especially more than is usual or expected.”

A generous person will give what they can to others, whether in time, resources, or encouragement. Genuinely interested in others, their mindset is one of giving and helping. A generous person has a noble character.

Within our human nature lies the tendency to close our hearts and therefore our hands to the needs of those around us. We may have excess that we enjoy but don’t need while we see others who lack the things we enjoy. It can test our hearts to open ourselves to sharing our abundance, but it almost always leaves us with a deeper satisfaction.

How can we be generous people, especially now that many of us are out of work and prices are skyrocketing on everything from food to gasoline to home repairs? It’s not a material issue; it’s a heart issue.

The Rewards of Generosity

Research, including a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology in June, has found we are happier when we give to someone else than when we spend money on ourselves. Our generosity lights up regions of our brains associated with pleasure, trust, and social connection. That’s part of the reason why being generous feels fantastic. We have many opportunities to develop meaningful relationships because our generosity means we are likable people. Thankfulness is a way of life for the open-hearted. Generosity breeds gratitude, which also gives us health benefits, including improved cardiovascular and immune function.

Our sincere and joyful giving encourages others to do the same. Even a simple “thank you” can inspire both us and the one we are thanking to be more generous. Anyone who might be watching or listening could also be encouraged to be more giving and thankful. Generosity keeps on going, helping us and those in our lives to feel happier and less lonely.

When we give something of our time or our resources, it’s all but inevitable the blessing will return back to us. It’s a system that always works, like gravity. I have seen this principle at work many times in my own life. Of course, one could refuse the blessing or pay no attention to it when it comes, but it will come.

Is it miraculous? Perhaps. Is it spiritual? I think so.

Generosity and Relationships

Generosity is necessary to truly healthy relationships. If we genuinely care for someone, our heart is open to them. We want to compliment them not only materially but intellectually and spiritually. What do they need? What do they like? How can we make life better for them?

As iron sharpens iron, we sharpen each other when we share thoughts, ideas, and opinions within our relationships. Our friend’s or spouse’s interpretation of an issue or situation may be quite different from ours. Still, by openly sharing, each of us will gain more knowledge and perhaps be able to see more possibilities than we would have seen without the other person’s viewpoints.

At the heart of all our relationships should be this basic principle: Treat them the way you want them to treat you.

Imagine how relationships would flourish if everyone applied that one principle. Issues arise when one or both parties forget to be generous with the other and aren’t treating the other person like they would like to be treated.

Giving is rewarding, and we need to train our brains to focus on it. We can give in ways that provide a positive effect on someone else’s life. We need to be thoughtful and intentional in our giving, knowing that we are making a difference, not only in someone else’s life, but in ours as well.

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.