“People are naturally selfish and everyone just looks out for themselves.” How many times have you heard or thought of a statement like this? Is it true? According to a recent study about selfishness, it appears that people are not naturally selfish! In the study, they discovered that even when the part of the brain that controls generosity was interrupted, participants in the study acted generously out of impulse. This study showed that selflessness can be a natural response, instead of an effort.
This is good news for people who want to build a habit of gift giving. It won’t be so hard to do after all, when your natural impulse is to be generous. If you have ever gone through a season where you are constantly taking and never giving, you will know that it wears on you after a while. Constantly taking and never giving back can actually prevent happiness, the one thing that people around the world are looking for.
Psychologists say that giving gifts can improve our mental health, which generally makes us happier. They take it one step further by saying that if you give without the expectation of receiving anything in return, your mental health will definitely improve and you will feel good inside about what you have done.
If you want to improve your mental health by making a habit of gift-giving, here are some tips that will help you accomplish your goal:
1. Gifts Aren’t Just for Special Occasions
Most people think of gifts in relation to birthdays, Christmas, and other events that call for gift-giving. People are generally expected to give gifts for these types of occasions though, and while you will feel some satisfaction from choosing the right gift for someone, it is not enough to create the kind of happiness that selfless giving bestows upon the giver.
While you are trying to make a habit of gift-giving, think outside the box. Make a list of the people in your life that you want to bless, and give a gift to each of them without an occasion to go with it. They will be surprised and pleased at your show of generosity. Just remember to keep your gifts appropriate. Giving a new girlfriend an expensive piece of jewelry will only have her running for the door! Instead, try a small token to let her know that you are paying attention when she talks about what she likes.
Another option here is to start paying closer attention to the needs of your loved ones, and focus your gift-giving on meeting those needs. If your sister needs her car’s oil changed but can’t afford it or make time to get it done right now, offer to take her car in and pay for the oil change. If you have the means to meet some of the needs around you, do it – once you build this habit, your life will change from solely caring about your own needs, and you might find that others start helping you with your needs after you spend some time meeting theirs.
2. Be Selfless, But Don’t Forget Yourself
It is possible to be too selfless. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will find yourself in a bad place both emotionally and financially. While you are making a permanent habit of gift-giving, don’t forget that you deserve a gift every now and again as well. Sometimes people wait to receive certain gifts from others, thinking that their self-worth is tied to whether or not a person shows them appreciation by giving them the gift. But your self-worth cannot come from other people, not even your spouse! You are who you are, regardless of who does or does not give you gifts. So give yourself a gift once in a while. After all, who knows what you want to receive more than you do?
A few years ago, I received a retroactive raise from my job, and it came just before Christmas. I had already bought gifts for my loved ones, so I used the money to buy myself a Christmas gift – one that I knew no one would be able to afford to give me as a gift anyways! I bought a keyboard with all the bells and whistles, and years later, I still have it and use it. It was not selfish of me to give that gift to myself. I worked hard for that money, and it was nice to be able to give myself a gift like that. Don’t go overboard with gifts for yourself, but try it every now and again. Happiness can come from giving gifts to others AND yourself.
3. How Much Should You Spend?
The consumerism in our culture today is almost sickening when it comes to gift-giving. Both the giver and the recipient fall prey to associating the cost or value of the gift with how much the giver cares for the recipient. We have all heard the saying “It’s the thought that counts,” but is it true? If you do put thought into the gifts you give to people, this saying will be true for you.
Again, gifts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive – they can be as simple as making someone’s favorite cookies, buying lunch for a co-worker from a restaurant you know they love. The key is to think about what the person needs or wants, and then provide it. Even if the gift isn’t perfect, the recipient will recognize that you are paying attention to what they talk about day to day, and truly care enough about them to try and give them something that they really do need or want. When they can see the thought behind your gift-giving, you will find the appreciation and happiness that comes from selfless giving.
Try Gift-Giving Today!
As you start your new habit of gift-giving, remember, what will improve your mental health is not the value of the gifts you give; it’s the act of giving that will bring you happiness. You may encounter some skeptical people along the way because many people still believe that everyone is basically selfish. Don’t give up on them – your real gift to these people is the act of kindness, that proves people can be selfless in today’s society. As you give your gifts, encourage others to do the same to their friends and family members. If everyone were to care about the needs of others more than their own needs, all of our needs would be met!