5 Simple Acts Proven to Promote Wellbeing

The conversation about emotional wellbeing is stronger now than it has ever been. We are all conscious of what wellbeing means to us and our community, but we are still a work in progress when it comes to putting good practices in place.

I came across some research from the New Economics Foundation about the things that we can do which promote wellbeing in our lives, guaranteed. It’s a bold statement, but here are five proven things you can do right now…

  1. Connect to the people around us – building relationships with people
  2. Being active in our bodies – looking after our physical health
  3. Take notice of the world – connecting with nature, seeing beauty in the things that have become normal.
  4. Learn New Skills – trying something new and challenging ourselves
  5. Give to others – being generous.

All five are about looking beyond our current situation and seeking to change the place we are currently in. Generosity really rounds this list out.

Generosity is good for whatever ails you because it shifts your focus from you. Instead of being trapped in your own mind, ruminating on your own thoughts and challenges, it pushes you to reach out to someone else who may be in the exact same situation. A generous act of checking in on someone to see how they are going, buying them a coffee, giving some time and attention to them, is an incredible gift…to you.  

Give yourself a gift by giving to someone else.

What is Self-Generosity?

Self generosity is so important. I think most people can find some energy to be a little bit generous to others, but generosity to ourselves seems to be the hardest thing to do.

There is a troubling dynamic between self-generosity and letting yourself of the hook. It can be a challenge to know if you are being honest with yourself. I still don’t know. Am I being generous to myself (like I would with other people), or am I taking the easy way out?

I’ll be the first to admit that it can take me a little while to understand what is happening ‘within myself’. I will often ask ‘what is the emotion that I am currently feeling’, or, more often, ‘I remember feeling an emotion the other day, what was that?’ I can be slow.

But it’s my emotions that generally stop me from doing something. Like taking on a new challenge, creating an event, or making a phone call. And so, I ask myself how much weight should I give to that emotion? Is this a time to listen to listen to myself and take a break, or is this one of those times that I can push on through? Am I running from a growth opportunity or is saying ‘no’ right now keeping me mentally healthy? Am I over thinking it? Am I underthinking it? Am I asking too many questions?

Maybe you can resonate with that.

The best strategy that I use which helps me manage this process is to sit in the discomfort of whatever the emotion is, name it out loud (works better if you are alone) and articulate what I am afraid of in that moment (fear is always at work).

That is my definition of self-generosity. Noticing what I am experiencing without judgement and sitting with it. From that point I will usually know instinctively what the next step is.

Do You Want to Hear a Secret?

Do you want to hear a secret?

I can’t even remember the last time I heard someone ask that. Maybe when I was a kid, but as you grow, sharing secrets happens less and less. Not because we no longer have secrets as adults, but we just don’t share them as much.

These hidden truths about ourselves and our past create a hefty burden that we carry, and they disconnect us from the people we do life with. Often they don’t seem appropriate to share with anyone, lest we be judged and rejected, so we keep them to ourselves and pretend they are not there. After a while, life with secrets becomes normal to us as the hefty burden becomes part of us and we get used to the disconnection.

A great way to be generous to yourself, is to share those secrets that you carry, with someone else. Someone you trust, someone who loves you.

James, a great spiritual leader and a brother to Jesus, encouraged his followers to confess their sins, or the secrets that they carried, to each other to remove the disconnection they caused and restore relationships. Such is the power of sharing a secret. It brings healing.

It’s a gift to you. It gets rid of the burden and brings the people you love closer.

What Do We Do with the Bullies?

I am anti-bully. I’m against them. I think we should treat everyone we come across with kindness and generosity.

Except, sometimes I don’t live up to that. Just ask my kids.

For the most part though, kindness and generosity drives me.

There are those who still seem to bully others no matter what time of day, how much sleep they got last night or how strong their coffee is. Why is that? What do people still behave like this?

It’s a learned behaviour. They got it from somewhere when they were younger. Somebody taught them to behave like this, either intentionally or by example.

No one called them out. No one told them “this is not okay”, and follow that up with, “you aren’t able to be my friend/stay at this school/work at this company/lead this organisation/represent this entity and still behave like that.”

It works for them. They get want they want this way. It has worked for them their entire life, so why should they change now?

They are afraid. Trampling on other people does not come from a good place. It comes from someone who is deeply afraid of rejection and being hurt.

We know that they are there. We see them in our schools, workplaces and in the community. What do we do with them?

Firstly, there are consequences for behaviour. Legal, relational and social. Bullies must face those consequences.

But the most dangerous thing that we can do to bullies is to beat them down into submission. We can’t just bully the bullies and then celebrate the win because instead of creating one less bully in the world, we have created one more. Violence leads to more violence. And bullying perpetuates more bullying.

A violent take over of a country is always followed by a violent take over of the country. Unless someone intentionally fosters peace in amongst the violence. It’s the same for how we relate to people within our community.

The most generous thing we can do is to intentionally foster peace. Leave room for consequences, and see them, not as a stick to punish, but as a helping hand to heal. To overcome bullying, we must protect the vulnerable and heal the bullies.

Don’t Work for a Charity

People often like to hear about the work that I do, and say things like,

‘It must be nice to have a purpose in what you do every day’, or

‘You must find it very rewarding’, or the almost condescending,

‘Is that your full-time role?’

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of those.

I see the longing in their eyes as they think about how amazing it would be to work in the not-for-profit world. Whilst I love it and I wouldn’t change it, here is my encouragement to you if you think that…

Don’t do it.

Not because charitable organisations are challenging places to work (which they can be), or because charitable organisations can be limited with funding to pay staff (which they can also be), but because not everyone should do it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t work for a charity. Whilst we could do with more great people who work for charities that are doing good, it is more important for the world to have more people creating amazing businesses and organisations – making as much money as they can, so they can give away as much as they can, to do the most good that they can.

Instead of working for a charity, create businesses people want to work at, that are known for their amazing culture and incredible generosity, and I guarantee that not only will you make a significant impact in the world, people will also say the same three things to you that they say to me.

In saying all of that, volunteer for a charity as much as you want.

I Don’t Have It Nailed Yet

Life’s a journey. One of growth, discovery and failure/learning. I’ve been writing and speaking about generosity for a number of years now. About all the benefits that it can bring, and how it improves your life. Mostly, I have been writing and speaking to myself, to help me in my personal journey of generosity. My hope is that I have become a more generous person during that time, and my future hope is that I will continue to become more generous. I don’t think I’ll reach the point where I am generous enough and can stop. Not for a long time anyway, because I see areas in my life where I can be more generous. All this to say, I am the Generosity Guy only because I point people to the benefits of living a generous lifestyle, not because I have the generous lifestyle nailed.

What are the benefits of a generous lifestyle? They are numerous, but essentially it is good for the people that you are generous to, it is good for the people around those that you are generous to and it’s good for you – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There are very few things that a generous act can’t fix.

Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come easy for you, or if you really wish you could be more generous that you are but can’t seem to find a way forward. That’s okay. It’s a journey that we can be on together, and it happens one generous act at a time.

The generous lifestyle is like building a muscle, but unlike super gross bodybuilding guy, you can’t build your generosity muscle up too much. So keep at it.

“How Can They Do That?”

It’s a question I have heard often over the last few weeks as we have seen people buying up big in preparation for the end of the world brought about by coronavirus. I must admit that it has been a bit confusing to watch people race for, and fill trolleys with, toilet paper and other inane items that 4 weeks ago were annoying necessities. What drives people to behave in such a way?

Apart from those that are purely taking advantage of this situation and profiteering (which I am choosing to assume is a very small percentage) people that are hoarding are doing so out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not having enough. Fear of scarcity. Fear of poverty. I can understand this fear. The word for 2020 so far is ‘unprecedented’. We have never experienced anything like this…in the developed world. (Millions of people go through upheavals of life regularly, but that is a conversation for another time). So, fear of not enough is understandable. But fear breeds more fear. Scarcity breeds scarcity. Scarcity subtracts.

To overcome the fear of hoarding requires acts of generosity. To look outside of our immediate needs and see those around us. Instead of acting as a single family unit we connect with those in our community and work as a larger entity. Together everyone achieves more (corny acrostic of T.E.A.M but has the added benefit of being true). When we act as a community, both locally and globally, it creates a generous mindset within us. Generosity comes from a hope that we can achieve things together that we are not capable of as individuals. Generosity breeds more generosity. Generosity multiplies.

When faced with the fear of scarcity, choose to act in generosity and it will have a positive, long lasting impact on our world.

Schadenfreude

I am often confronted by my shadow. Not the shape on the ground made by my body blocking the sun, but the ‘dark side’ of my personality. It’s confronting because the shadow “consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power.” We all have a shadow but it requires some work to see it, to truly get to know yourself and understand what is happening within you. It’s not easy and I don’t think it’s a journey with an end point.

What is easy, however, is seeing the shadow in other people. We can spot it in those around us in a split second, but this is not about them. This is about you and me. So, instead of thinking “this is so valid for my spouse/friend/colleague”, let’s take a look at ourselves.

It is within my shadow that I find schadenfreude. A German word which sounds like a sneeze but means deriving pleasure from someone else’s misfortune. Here are some examples:

  • Laughing at someone who trips over
  • Smiling when a team that you hate loses
  • Feeling good when someone you know fails

Ever done anything like that? Yeah, me neither…*cough*

Is schadenfreude good or bad?

Some people suggest that it is to our benefit to experience schadenfreude because it that experience helps motivate us to achieve success. It keeps us going as others around us fall away. Which seems to be like a pretty lonely way to experience life and sounds like the opposite of what I would consider success.

So it must be bad then. Surely if I feel good about something bad happening to something else, it can’t be too long before I consider initiating something bad to someone else for my own pleasure? From considering to doing doesn’t take too long either, so schadenfreude has to be bad.

The truth is that, by itself, it is neither good or bad. It is part of the human emotional experience but what we do with that can create positive or negative outcomes. How we process our emotions when we experience them makes all the difference. Just as with any element of our shadow, when you experience it, just notice it. See it for what it is, an emotional response, and move on. Schadenfreude, and other emotions from the shadow, are heavily weighted towards isolation, which is unhealthy for us. I would suggest moving towards relationship at every possible moment.

So, don’t seek to avoid schadenfreude (gesundheit!), notice it when it happens and move towards relationship. When you feel good about someone else failing, that’s okay but don’t stay in that space. Move towards the person, even in your thoughts, which will help you begin to understand how they could be feeling in that challenging situation. Now comes the opportunity to be generous with them, but also with yourself if you struggle to do that.