What Giving Does

It’s that time of year again.  You know what I’m talking about:  Everywhere you turn you are told to consume, consume, consume.  Buy this. Eat that.  Get in line the day after Thanksgiving and fight over material things.  No thanks!

I woke up today with the title of this blog for the headline. I have no idea why or how. It was like something you see in a movie where suddenly someone becomes all inspired or something.  I think I came up with it because I have been talking more lately about spiritual wellness in some of the various roles I play at work.  Sometimes people struggle with wrapping their head around the concept.  It has everything to do with giving and experiencing and nothing to do with consuming or receiving.

For many, spiritual wellness seems to be synonymous with a religious practice which is great, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  Without getting too granola about it, really to me it just means having  a sense of purpose beyond yourself.  Fostering meaning in life that is outside of yourself can be done in all sorts of ways.  Here are some really simple strategies that might help you or your clients begin to seek out deeper meaning and spiritual wellness in life:

  • Take time to be quiet.  Our culture does not send us this message – ever.  Even 30 minutes out of an entire week to reflect on life and what it means to you will be a start.  No, you cannot use this time to make to-do lists.  You could do this in the form of meditation or just sitting quietly to reflect on how you feel your overall well-being is currently.  This should be done in a quiet place free of electronics, people, and general distraction.
  • Journal.  Reflect on your daily activities on a regular basis. Write it down.  Who and what is important in your life? Are you spending your time in line with those?
  • Spend time with octogenarians. I find this generation of people to have such a unique view of the world and they are at a stage in their life where priorities are clear.  They usually aren’t in a hurry and tell awesome stories. My mom jokes about being in this category but I enjoy hearing her reflect on life.
  • Be present.  Pay attention to the small things – they might actually be big things!
  • Most importantly – GIVE.  This doesn’t have to be the giving of material things. Sometimes giving our time is the most valuable thing we can give.  Is there an issue, cause or organization that you are passionate about? Would your time be well spent to contribute to it?  Maybe your life right now just doesn’t allow much of your free time. Could you donate goods or things you already have?  Clean out your closet and donate blankets or coats to those in need.  Give blood.  The small talents and skills we may possess like the ability to drive someone to a medical appointment, or play a musical instrument to nursing home residents – we can all easily take things like this for granted.  Donated time or talent could be a life changer for those on the receiving end.

What giving does is hard to articulate, but it is a conscious act of realizing there is more to life than you. It connects us to others – some of which may be in great need.  You matter because you are connected to other things that matter.  Giving can cultivate a sense of spiritual wellness because it’s not about consuming and receiving.

So, given the fact that we are inundated this time of year with messaging of consumption – there is no better time to step back and give. It’s a great time to identify ways to simplify your own life by consuming less and giving more. The sense that it will bring can help foster well-being in everyone this time of year.

You can also visit my piece on “Giving Back” which includes ideas of how you can use your professional time and talent to give to others.

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