Cultivating Happiness by Giving

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that I embarked on a quest to find happiness a while back ago (like, say, January). What can I say? I got busy with other things and dropped my project to be picked up again maybe never. This is one reason why cultivating happiness can be so tricky: We get too busy with life to remember to be happy.

Well, I’m back on the Happy Wagon and happy to report that I had a successful go at my last challenge: to devote some of my time to giving. As the Huff Post states, a long-term study shows that people who give get a little in return:

“Volunteers were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression.”

This is great news for anybody, but especially for those with chronic health issues like lupus who tend to experience higher rates of depression.

At first it was a challenge for me to figure out how I was going to give. I can’t afford to donate money, and although I can donate my time, I can only do so with my toddler in tow. Then I was presented with two opportunities to give once I started attending church (more on that later).

The first opportunity came about through a moms’ group I attend through my church. We created homeless care kits with our kids and distributed them to friends and family to give to the homeless. Each mom donated one item (in my case, it was a Costco box of granola bars), and we created an assembly line of moms and kids to put everything into gallon-sized ziplock bags.

It was fast and chaotic and immensely rewarding to know we had pulled together to do something for members of the community who are in need. So far I’ve only had the opportunity to give away one bag, but the look of pure gratitude on the man’s face filled my bucket, so to speak. It feels so good to make others happy.

If you’re interested in making your own homeless care kits, I’ve included a list of items used in my moms’ group below. Just throw a few in your car, and you’re ready to give!

Homeless Care Kit Contents:

  • bottled water
  • granola bars
  • peanuts
  • wet wipes (travel sized)
  • shampoo (travel sized or sample pack)
  • comb
  • body soap (travel sized or hotel sized)
  • toothbrush/toothpaste (travel sized)
  • gallon-sized Ziplock bags

The second opportunity was a simple way to give, and it’s ongoing. Each Sunday I bring 1-2 cans of food to church and drop them in a food donation box. I buy things like cans of beans in bulk, so this is a very affordable way for me to give to people who need help feeding their families. At first, I worried about giving away food from my pantry when we don’t have extra money to spare, but then I reminded myself that if I was ever unable to buy food, I could turn to my church for help.


So an unexpected byproduct of giving has been a very new sense of community. I feel much more connected to others than I had before, and that in turn has increased my happiness.

Side note: I’m participating in #100happydays. Follow me on Twitter to see what makes me happy each day!

Next habit: Lose track of time.


Photo credits: BostInno,


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