Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Living In Generosity is Good for You

I'm sitting here stitching, trying to finish up a project. In order to do that, I need to have a reason to sit in one place. Road trips are excellent for this. So is sitting and talking over wine at the wine bar we frequent. What's not excellent for this is sitting at home, trying to stitch. If I'm here, I can think of a million things I need to do, from making another cup of decaf to checking the laundry to sending an email to editing the last paragraph I wrote this morning.

So, sometimes, when I reallyreallyreally need to finish something, I watch a bunch of TED talks, and that's what I did today. I watched a playlist about happiness, and most of them were interesting and thought-provoking if not necessarily astounding or earth-shaking. There was one that really got me thinking, though: how generosity makes us happy.

OK, so all of us who attend Art is You know about Sal and Ellen's projects around Living in Generosity, and most of us who have participated will agree that helping others feels really good.  It turns out there have been studies that show this is kind of universal, this bump we get from giving.

It was the kind of revelation for me that made me stop with my needle in mid-stitch, mouth open in that "Aha" way where you realize something you hadn't thought about before. What I realized is that something that may have contributed to my increased level of happiness in the last, oh, five or ten years could well go beyond the stuff I've done about stress reduction and worrying and decluttering, all the way to giving stuff away. I've written before about giving away stuff, so I won't go into detail here. Suffice to say I've given away a ton of stuff, from art supplies to (as I mentioned before) a car to  diamond jewelry. Just a whole range, and to a whole range of people, from those I've never met to those I know in real life but not very well. Hardly anything went to anyone I'd known more than a year, so it wasn't as if I were dispersing things to lifelong friends or beloved relatives. Nope. I just gave myself the task of finding people who would enjoy things I didn't need any more.

And, as I said last time, one of the things I learned is that it's fun. It's really fun to give things to people. It's fun to donate money to a good cause, but it's also fun to have something you love that needs a new home and then try to find the home it needs. You know: you can wear it and wait until someone raves about it and then give it to them. You can post a photo on your blog or website or Facebook or Pinterest and see who really seems to love it.

Or you can just put stuff out there, like the Art Abandonment things people do at the retreats (I abandoned a lot of things in Olive Branch, and it was fabulous fun).

OK, here's a story that makes me smile: I had a typewriter key bracelet I'd had made back before I learned to solder. It said CREATE, of course, and I wore it but had realized I didn't need it and it needed a new home. We were having coffee at the Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter, and a young woman at the next table admired the bracelet. I took it off and let her try it on, and she was telling me that they were there on their honeymoon and it was their first trip. You know. And when she took the bracelet off to give it back, I said no, it was hers, a gift for her. She cried, which always unnerves me, but it was happy crying, and I like to imagine she wears the bracelet and it recalls for her all the happy memories of their honeymoon in New Orleans.

So. That's one story. You probably have one of your own. If not, maybe you can think of something you'd like to do. And if you don't have any ideas, Sal and Ellen can certainly help.

Not convinced yet? Then watch the TED talk and be inspired:

No comments: