We all hold power within us to effect change. That power is birthed from the choices we make. James Esdras Faust, an American religious leader, lawyer, and politician once said, “Tomorrow’s blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today.” We hold within our choices the power to change our lives, change the lives of those around us, and the power to choose our destiny.
In an article titled, The Power of Choice, Sam Silverstein discusses the power of our choices. He states, “Our choices not only affect us today, but affect our abilities and our choices in the future. For instance, if you feel out of control in a given situation, you may choose to withdraw or avoid the problems at hand. This choice leads you to escape from a challenge instead of confronting and possibly overcoming it. The degree to which you avoid or escape from problems today impairs your ability to face, deal with, and grow from various challenges in the future. As the complexity of life evolves, one choice will build on another, enabling you to handle increasingly difficult situations.” As he states; when we avoid the choices we are faced with we inhibit ourselves and cause ourselves to become overwhelmingly incapable of handling life.
It is essential for us to make good choices and recognize the power of those choices. Silverstein also mentions an important aspect of choices that we must remember. That is that our choices not only affect our lives and our future, but our choices can also have an impact on others’ lives. He states, “Making choices also means accepting the idea that we are part of a bigger picture. We are not alone in our choices. Our choices affect not only ourselves, but the people around us. Our choices shape our actions. Our actions are received and interpreted by those around us. These actions shape the opinions and feelings of those individuals and, ultimately, the actions they take for or against our behalf.” Silverstein makes the pertinent point that we not only affect our lives when we make choices, but we can also influence others around us and change their lives in the process.
He goes on to give a few examples of how our choices can affect our lives and futures. He states, “Some choices we make, like our financial well being, will ultimately affect the members of our immediate family. As we grow financially, we are in a position to provide on a different level for those we love. We make choices regarding our values and how we balance our lives. These choices will certainly impact our family and friends. How you treat others professionally will impact the results your business team achieves. As you can see, the choices we make can affect a wide array of people in our lives.” In Silverstein’s example, we can see that our choices can affect the lives of those around us. Sometimes it’s pretty simple to see the influence our choices have. Or sometimes it’s more obscure. However, our choices can have an impact on our future and the lives of others.
Psychiatrist William Glasser developed a theory in 1996 called Choice Theory. He argued that we have direct control over how we act and think. Which in turn, how we think and act can influence how we feel and our physiology. These four elements of choice, work together to make up who we are and how our lives evolve. If one of these components changes, the rest will follow. How we think influences how we act and how we act influences how we feel which will then influence our physiological well-being. Emily Holland, in an article titled The Psychology Behind Choice-Making, and How it Can Help You Reach Your Goals, discusses Glasser’s Choice Theory and gives an example of how the theory actually works. She states, “For example, say one of your goals is to get into shape–more specifically, you want to run a mile without stopping. If you are feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, according to Choice Theory, actually doing something about it is the most effective course of action.” She suggests that, according to Glasser’s theory, if you just take the first steps to reach your goal it will lead to more positive thinking about it, feeling better emotionally about it and improving your physical health. By taking the first step and even just walking one-mile, it will influence your thinking, acting, feeling, and physiological well-being.
She goes on, “In short, you choose what you think and do, resulting in how you feel. Taking proper action produces your thoughts and in turn influences how you feel. When you make choices that bring you one step closer to meeting your goals, it leads to more positive thinking and enhanced emotional and physical well-being.” This is a theory that many people believe and act on but don’t necessarily attribute to Glasser. But if you were to take a gander into the world of physical health, you’d see this theory in play constantly. For instance, some have said that to convince yourself to workout, all you need to do is to break down the steps into smaller steps. Start by just doing one thing, like putting on workout clothes, and then another and another. Pretty soon, you’ll change your life just by taking small steps in that direction.
Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If you want to change your life and make better choices, start with a small step. Start today. We can influence our destiny by the choices we make. How you think about it, can change how you act on it, and how you act on it can change how you feel. And when you change how you feel, think, and act, you can change your physiological well-being for the better. Therefore, make better choices today for a better you tomorrow. The power of your destiny is within you.
Homework: As a task or assignment for this week, I would suggest taking some time to make note of your choices. A good trick to use is to write down some of the choices you make in a day. Maybe start by just writing some of the larger choices you make so as not to be overburdened by having to constantly be writing. But this is a good way to start the habit of being aware of what choices you’re making. Maybe even make note of how you feel and think about the choices you’re making. That, in turn, can help you to see how your choices impact your life as well as the lives of others.
On April 15, 2018, in the small town of Provo, Utah, Rick Winder driving a utility truck, veered lanes and crashed into three cars causing an accident that took the life of three-year-old Chelsea Parkinson. The accident also left several injured. Mr. Winder was charged with negligent homicide. Reed and Katie Parkinson, the parents of Chelsea, showed up to Winder’s sentencing on December 6th and gave a testimony that left the courtroom stunned. The Parkinson family, although saddened by the loss of their daughter, asked the judge to have mercy on Rick Winder–asking that he not receive “any jail-time if possible, and get the lowest amount of sentencing as possible.” In the words of Chelsea’s father, “We miss our daughter, of course, so much, but we realize that Rick is a real person. He’s a human being. It took a little while to realize that, but once we did, we were able to forgive him.”
As a parent of a three-year-old myself, I can only imagine the pain and heartache that this family feels over the loss of their daughter. Their story, while horribly sad, is also a great illustration of choices. Rick Winder had a choice and he made a mistake which cost the life of a child. But the parents had a choice as well. Their choice to forgive Rick is a choice that will serve as a great example of compassion and forgiveness. Winder’s attorney called it the best example of mercy and forgiveness that he’s ever seen.
Every day we are faced with choices. Some are small and hold very little significance on our future. But some choices are very important and can be a pivotal point for the rest of our lives. Our choices can even determine our destiny. There are those who believe that destiny is something that just happens to you. But our choices, most assuredly, determine our destiny. We have control and the choices we make can be the difference between joy, happiness, and abundance or living a life filled with sorrow and pain. Just like the Parkinson family, we all have choices. They chose to see Winder as a human being who makes mistakes and therefore it made it easier to forgive him.
Good Choices, Good Life is an organization dedicated to focusing “on the importance of effective choice making” by providing an education that will help individuals gain a better understanding of personal responsibility. In an article on their site titled “Life Doesn’t Just Happen,” Michael Nelson shares the same idea that the choices we make can influence our lives. He states, “You can choose to be polite or be indifferent. You can choose to study or go play with your friends. You can choose to work hard or just get by. You can choose what you want to do with your life or just accept whatever comes your way. These, and hundreds of other choices, define you as an individual and determine the life experience you will have.” Sometimes even what seem like small choices can influence our lives. Our choices have an effect on our lives and we have a responsibility to make responsible choices.
We all understand that there are things that are out of our control. We are not the only people who have choices and make choices, and other’s choices can affect our lives–sometimes in disastrous and painful ways. As we saw in the heartbreaking story of the Parkinson family, Winder had a choice too and he made some choices which inflicted emotional pain on Reed, Katie, and countless others. However, we can always choose how we react or act after such incidents. As Dolly Parton stated so eloquently, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Even though there are things that we cannot control and people will act in a way that could bring unimaginable pain to our lives, we always have a choice on how we act, what we do, and even how we feel.
As an illustration, I like to compare it to physical health and a journey to getting into shape. When we go to the gym we make many choices, what equipment we use, how long we workout, and when we’re done. Most people find going to the gym hard, but the truth is that no one at the gym can make you exercise. The effectiveness of the gym is not dependent on the people who exercise there. You make those choices. We get out of our exercise what we put into it. In fact, you are the one who decides if you go to the gym at all. Such is life. The effectiveness of life and joy, happiness or the success we have in life is not dependent on other people around us. We get out of life what we put into it. I have found this personally in my own rollercoaster weight journey–if I want to change my body and be healthier, I have to put in the work. I have to make the choice.
I’m sure many of us know the consequence of the opposite choice. We all know what it’s like to decide not to workout. In an article titled “Your Choices Define You” Ankit Nagar exclaims what that choice does. He states, “Now imagine that you’re working out at the gym. You envision yourself with that beautifully toned body. With those perfectly shredded muscles or that amazing waist. And you’re doing your reps, and there’s another set remaining. You start telling yourself, it’s okay buddy, you can do it tomorrow. But the thing is, you can’t. Time gone is quite simply put, gone. It’s never coming back. And that leads to procrastination, which eventually shatters every dream you’ve had of having the perfect body.” Do you want to do something? Do you want to have the perfect body or even just a better body? It’s up to you. You have the choice, you make the difference.
We like to put blame on many things, whether that’s health or friends, family or work, we don’t like to take the blame when we don’t make the right choice. We don’t like to admit when we make mistakes. But we always have the choice. In our health, as in life, we have the choice to make the difference. Working out is hard and every day we have to make the choice as to whether what we want in the future is more important than what we want now. I believe that we are all blessed in this life with free will. We all have the ability to act and not be acted upon. People can influence our choices especially by threatening life or limb, but we always have a choice.
In the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens shares one of the most powerful stories about choices. In this popular novella published in 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser is visited by three ghosts on Christmas night. That experience changes Scrooge into a kinder man who is willing to help those in need. But before he is visited by these ghosts, he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley. Marley speaks to Scrooge about his past choices and how those choices influenced his life and his life in the hereafter. The powerful quote is now one that will be forever linked to what our choices really mean to our future. Marley, holding the chains and money boxes that he made in life by selfishness, shares with Scrooge his sorrow at those choices, “‘You are fettered,’ said Scrooge, trembling. ‘Tell me why?’ ‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.’” The choices he made in life, those selfish choices are what created the heavy chains that hold him bound in the afterlife. Marley explains that Scrooge has one chance to avoid those chains. He will be visited by three ghosts, (the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future) and he must heed their words or face the fate of heavier chains of his own.
After he is visited and awakes the next morning, Christmas morning, Scrooge is a changed man. He uses his money to donate to those in need and helps his clerk Bob Cratchit by giving him a raise, a turkey dinner, and becomes a father figure to Cratchit’s son Tiny Tim. He becomes a nicer man–giving love, generosity, and compassion wherever he goes. Scrooge had made many choices in life that led him down a path of pain, heartache, and loneliness. He aches for the loss of friends, family, and the love of his life Belle. But he is given a chance to change his ways and make up for those choices. When given that opportunity, Scrooge changes his ways and makes better choices. Dickens does a wonderful job of illustrating just how our choices can influence our lives. Although the story is old and has been done and redone a million times by different people, the story and moral are still relevant today. We have the free will to make our choices and our choices will either set us free and help those around us or we too will forge the chains that can hold us bound.
When we are faced with a decision, there are several questions we can ask ourselves to help us determine what we should do. I’ve made it into a list form, just for easier reading, but there are many more as well.
What kind of person do I want to be?
What choices do I need to make to get there?
Will my choices have a negative or positive consequence?
Will my choices affect someone I love in a negative way?
Will my choices affect myself or my future in a negative way?
Does what I’m doing now lead to what I want in the future?
If not, what are the choices that I can make to lead to what I want in the future?
We can all ask ourselves these questions about our choices and we can all change the choices we make. One thing that stands out to me about the story of Scrooge is that it’s never too late to change who we are. Scrooge was an old man who had lived his whole life before as a grouchy, selfish man who didn’t seem to have a care for anyone else but himself. However, when he was finally given the opportunity to see where his choices were leading him, he made the choice to change who he was. He didn’t say, but I’m so old now, will it make a difference? He chose to become better from that moment on.
We all have this choice. I know it’s not going to be easy. Nothing worth having in this life is going to be easy. As in the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” There is nothing in this life that is worth having that is easy. Just ask any mother who has given birth, or gymnast who has gone for the gold, or doctor who has gone through medical school. We all have choices and those choices are never easy. But when we make the right choice and we choose to live our lives in a way that, although difficult, is the higher path, we are blessed. Whether by God or the universe–our lives will be blessed for making the right choices. Regardless, without any discrimination and without fail, our choices determine our destiny.
Bad choices can change a life forever. This is something very apparent if you have ever done any family history work or read pretty much any story in history. It’s also something that is apparent in families who have a history of abuse. The cyclical effect of abuse is one that has been studied many times. According to childwelfare.gov children who see or experience abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves. It states, “Research suggests that child abuse is known to repeat itself from generation to generation. This cycle of abuse can occur when children who were victims of abuse and/or neglect or witnessed violence between their parents or caregivers.” When children are exposed to the abuse they usually end up perpetuating that abuse.
This cycle of abuse is very real. In an article in The Washington Post, columnist Sarah Szczypinski talks about this difficult subject. The article titled, Abusive Parenting Styles Can Be Inherited. Here Are Five Ways to Break the Cycle, illustrates several things we can do or chose to do which will break this cycle. Szczypinski shares a study from the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group, she states, “According to a study by the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group, adults who endured physical and emotional abuse as children are more likely to repeat those patterns with their own offspring. The authors noted that poor parenting, including physical and emotional abuse, frequently was observed across three generations, suggesting that those choices can affect families for decades.” The cycle of abuse is very real and a lot of families fall prey to it.
However, there are those who are willing to make the choice to end that cycle of abuse. Some might even call those people “superheroes.” In a blog post on ScaryMommy.com titled, A Love Letter to Those Who Break the Cycle of Abuse, Annie Reneau gives her own personal experience with the cycle of abuse and her father, whom she calls a “superhero” who ended the cycle of abuse from her family. She states, “Growing up, I heard stories and parts of stories. A grandfather beating his wife before chasing his sons down an alley with his police pistol. A mother plagued by alcoholism and anger. Six siblings with six different fathers. A precious violin smashed to pieces in a drunken rage. Bit by bit, the picture of my father’s upbringing was painted in blacks and blues. He didn’t tell us everything–just enough to give us a sense of where he came from. “Superheros” must keep some secrets, after all.
Now that I have three kids of my own and a keen understanding of how difficult parenting can be under the best of circumstances, I recognize my dad for the cycle-breaking hero that he was. I’m well aware that the hell he lived through as a kid, simply by being born into a wounded family, could easily have been my own fate. The cycles of addiction and abuse, the inheritance of personal and parental tools in need of serious repair, the passing down of bitterness and rage like family heirlooms–I’ve witnessed these phenomena in other families over the years. It’s the easiest thing for mortals to be human. But at some point, my dad stepped into a phone booth and vowed to be more than the sum of his upbringing. He took on the monsters that followed him and declared war on the dysfunctional demons he carried. He chose to give his children the childhood he didn’t have. This story from Reneau is not new and many people are blessed enough to benefit from those superheroes. I too have the cycle of abuse within a line of my family tree and I am unbelievably grateful to the person, the superhero, who chose to end that cycle with them. Their choice to end the abuse, without a doubt, made their life and my life better.
We all have choices. Most choices will be hard and require all of our strength and courage to make. However, we all have the choice, even in circumstances that seem out of our control–just as with the cycle of abuse. As a parent, I am keenly aware of how my choices shape my children’s reality. The way I chose to act or react can have an impact on how my children think about me and the world, and how they will be, and act when they are older. Continually, my choices can have an impact on many other people around me–my husband, my friends, neighbors, and most assuredly myself. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Our choices are our responsibility and we have the choice to choose responsibly. That’s not just a good motto for drinking, it’s a good motto for life–choose responsibly.
This is not to scare or intimidate anyone. I have no intention towards that end. However, I only mean to emphasize the importance of our own choices. Because we have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others in the choices that we make and I believe that we all have free will and we all have the capability to choose better.
Our choices play an integral part in our future and our destiny. We have within our power the ability to change our own lives. Every day we are faced with choices, and every day we make those choices for better or worse. As Mr. Feeny states, (for those who don’t know, Mr. Feeny is the principle in a 90’s TV show called Boy Meets World), “Personally I believe that a man, no matter where he comes from, chooses his own path.” Whether we face what seems like impossible odds, like the cycle of abuse or addiction, or whether we have made bad choices in the past like Scrooge, or whether we are just trying to live a healthier life with exercise–we choose our own path. As Viktor E. Frankl put it so beautifully, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And so I add to Frankl’s eloquent words (though they need no addition) when we are given the choice, let’s choose better.
There are many ways to give to others. Most often as a society we are asked to take out our checkbooks to help. Yet we still have so many obvious problems in the world with how we treat each other. It would appear that finances are the most obvious way to help. However your time, resources, words, and energy should not go unnoticed. It’s often the simplest way to give to others that have the greatest impact on humanity. Let’s examine something completely free and that takes little to no time to gift to others, your smile. A smile takes only 17 face muscles to create.
A good deed in the universe is seen in a ripple effect of other good deeds. While at a traffic light, you randomly smile at someone in the car next to you who just received devastating news. Your smile changes their perspective suddenly as a smile represents happiness. Your polite gesture has helped change an attitude quickly. They reflect your smile and feel less devastated if even briefly. A small step in your smile creates an atmosphere of generosity and kindness. Thus, a domino effect has been created. The hurt soul takes it upon them to have a positive outlook. They are motivated to feel better. The light has changed to green and somewhere out there things begin to change for the better.
We can see this domino continue when one pays it forward in drive through lines. What a magnificent feeling to know your order has been taken care of by a stranger. A simple cup of coffee gifted to you for under a dollar has made you feel on top of the world. The immense feeling of gratitude is sparked. The receiver might pay for the order behind them or choose to bless someone else with the money they just saved. Perhaps they use their coffee money to pay a toll fee for more than their vehicle. The person receiving the toll is able to spend less time digging through their change and therefore makes it to the hospital in a faster time to help save a life on their shift. That patient a year later gives birth to a child who helps solve the oil crisis peacefully in their adult years… all because someone chose to buy a cup of coffee in a drive through lane. What if they were inspired by a smile on their route to get their morning cup of coffee when their day started off so poorly in bad news?
Abundance starts small. It is said that a grateful heart attracts miracles. It doesn’t take much to help someone feel appreciated or acknowledged. Small acts of kindness lead to waves of miracles in others. We truly never know what someone else is going through. So, start small and with a smile. It could make a big difference to someone you don’t even know. Help change the world, someone’s life could depend on it.
“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” – Buddha
Have you ever caught yourself complaining about things that don’t really matter? “I have too much to do before I go on vacation, and I just remembered I need to get the oil changed.” “Geez, the wifi is so slow today!” First world problems, right? We live in an advanced, wealthy society, which can be a double-edged sword. The good news is, we live in a society where abundance is almost everywhere we look. The bad news is, our abundance is so abundant that we forget to notice, let alone appreciate, how good our lives are.
So what is abundance anyway? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines abundance as “an ample quantity; affluence, wealth.” When we compare our standard of living to that of our grandparents, or even parents, we can recognize how quickly things have changed. The phrase abundant mindset is thrown about a lot, and it can be tricky to figure out what it actually means. It may be easier to define by contrasting it with its opposite, scarcity mindset. Living your life from a scarcity standpoint means you never have enough, will never have enough, can never have enough. You hoard what resources you have because you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get them again. Scrooge is the quintessential illustration of scarcity mentality.
Abundance, on the other hand, is recognizing the good things you have are enough and to spare, and that those things will continue to be available. You recognize that just as plants tend to increase and produce more, and as populations tend to flourish in the right conditions, your resources can do the same. You are willing to pass along aid and encouragement to others because you know there is enough for all.
Sounds good, right? How can we all cultivate an abundant mindset? The first step is to recognize the good things you already have. Have a place to sleep every night? Great. Everyday remind yourself how lucky you are for that luxury. Do you have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a job to support yourself? Even better. Practice looking at your life with gratitude.
Next, look outward. How can you improve the lives of those around you? The person next to you on the bus could benefit from a friendly smile. Supporting a good cause is another way to spread positivity. Having an abundant mindset means you are generous with all that you have, whether it’s tangible or intangible.
By recognizing the good things we have, and acting to help others, you can create an abundant lifestyle for yourself. Thinking and acting with gratitude and generosity has many benefits—from improving your outlook to making a difference to those around you. Setbacks are not the discouragement they once were. This way of thinking can be transformational. Wayne Dyer said, “Abundance is not something we acquire. It’s something we tune into.” Tuning into this wavelength of gratitude and generosity can increase our life satisfaction, happiness, and self-confidence to a level we have not previously thought possible.
It was seven years ago; my husband and I had only been married a few years and we lived with our baby girl in a rented basement house with a roof that started at ground level and chipping concrete walls that had been painted green. We affectionately called it the gnome home because it looked like the kind of house magical little people might occupy. Well, we never saw any little people while we lived there, but we did experience a bit of magic.
Finances were tight. My husband had just passed the test to be a Licensed Practical Nurse and was in school to become a Registered nurse. With little experience, and several years shy of any nursing shortage, the only work he could find was part time. I helped with a few work from home jobs, but mostly I took care of the baby. We watched every penny that came in and out. It helped that we were healthy and young with no medical bills or dietary restrictions. I honed my skills at infusing dry beans with flavor and my husband picked up extra hours whenever he could.
But one month, my husband couldn’t pick up any extra hours. We tried to be as frugal as possible, but at the end of the month, my heart sank as I pounded numbers into my calculator. We were exactly one hundred dollars short.
The next day my husband and I took our daughter to visit family in an attempt to forget our stress, but we were both anxious knowing the same thing could happen the next month too. That’s when the magic happened.
We made our way to the entrance of our home and were shocked to find several new Easter dresses sized perfectly for our daughter. Then, when we went to open the door, an unmarked envelope fell to the porch. Inside it was 100 dollars in cash.
I held my husband’s hand as we stared at the two fifty-dollar bills. We were not open about our financial situation. No one knew what had happened, and yet here was the exact amount we were short.
Looking back, that hundred dollars didn’t keep us from starving, without it we could still pay rent, and our daughter wouldn’t have known the difference between the sweet new dress we were given and the second-hand one we would have found her. We would have survived without it, but with it, we thrived, with it we felt loved. We were amazed that someone had been watching us close enough to realize what our needs were. Someone had given us hope during a time when we felt so downtrodden and helpless.
After that, my husband and I made a goal that we would give back in the same way as soon as our finances allowed it. Years later, we have experienced both lean and plentiful moments in our lives, but never have we been so close to the edge as we were in the days when we lived in the gnome home. We’ve made it our personal mission to pay it forward and recreate that magic for others. We can only hope that some of the people we’ve left anonymous gifts for have done the same thing we did and are making their own magic right now.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Similar to a good cause, a worthy cause is something that leaves you better than you were before. In fact, the term “worthy cause” has been defined as “a cause that merits attention, aid, or action due to an inherent goodness of values or intention”. Based on this definition a worthy cause is simply a synonym for a good cause. But I think there is more that distinguishes the two, making them not just a synonym but a term that complements or plays off of each other.
I believe that the biggest difference between a good cause and a worthy cause, is that while they both help others, one provides services and aid, whereas the other not only provides services and aids but teaches the recipient how to improve their life as well. Giving aid and resources to those in need is important, but for many people that is where the help stops; not many causes go the extra steps to teach recipients to pay it forward or how to improve their life moving forward. It is this distinction that I believe takes a good cause and moves it up to being a worthy cause.
I believe that a worthy cause is three-fold: giving and receiving, learning and teaching, and paying it forward. When all three components work together, both the benefactor and the giver of a worthy cause benefit, along with many others whom the benefactor will then go on to bless and help in the future. Creating a never-ending circle of giving, teaching and paying it forward.
Giving and Receiving
At the root of any cause is a need—financial assistance, volunteers, disaster relief, medical or school supplies, etc. In order for this need to be addressed and the help received, it requires the benefactor to overcome their fear of asking for help, and letting it be known that they need assistance. When someone is able to admit that they need help and can’t do everything on their own, shows great courage; shows that any help received will be going towards a good or worthy cause.
Asking for help from others is not a sign of weakness, it is actually the opposite, it is a sign of strength. Not only are you opening yourself up to generosity from others, but you are providing givers with an opportunity for those who are willing and able to donate to give of their time and talents to those who are less fortunate or in need.
A worthy cause is something that allows for both parties—givers and receivers to be blessed and benefit from the act. Those who donate money to a worthy cause, experience many benefits associated with their generous donation. A few proven benefits that come from donating to a worthy cause include:
· Experience More Pleasure and Joy
Studies have found that those who choose to donate money to a worthy or good cause, benefited from activated pleasure centers in the brain. Essentially, studies have found that when you donate money, you feel better, regardless of how much or how little you donate.
· Bring More Meaning into Your Life
Donating and helping a worthy cause that you believe in, provides you with the opportunity to meet and connect with others who also believe in the same causes that you do. In addition, to meeting others who you share a common interest with, donating can also establish a sense of meaning in your own life; especially if you find that you are stuck in a rut, donating can reignite the spark in your own life.
· Improve Personal Money Management
There are so many financial experts out there, all teaching individuals to set a budget and stick to it in order to get on top of their finances. Setting a set amount of money to donate to a worthy cause each month, can really help you to improve your personal finances as you are then committed to donating money to a charity or cause that you believe in every month. When you’ve decided to donate a set amount of money each month, people are generally more inclined to pay attention to their monthly bank statement, so they can stay current on their financial contributions.
· Get a Tax Deduction
When you make a financial donation to an IRS-approved charity, you are then able to write off your donations on your tax return. Keep in mind, certain restrictions do apply, check out the IRS website to learn more and see if a particular charity or cause that you are considering donating to has IRS approval.
All of these benefits bless the giver’s life, while the benefactor’s life is also blessed in the fact that their needs are met, they are able to pick up and rebuild their life, afford to pay for medical or funeral costs, or any other need that they might have. The beneficiary would not be able to do any of these things, if not for the generous donations of those from the givers.
Learning and Teaching
Now that we have learned a little bit about how the giver and receiver benefits from generous donations to worthy causes; it is time to take those lessons and teach them to others. It is easy to see the benefits for yourself when you are the one who is donating and benefiting directly, but what about your friends, family members or the benefactor? It is one thing to see others donate and bless others lives, or be the benefactors; it is entirely different when you learn and can experience those same benefits in your own life.
I believe that this is one of those instances, where the feeling is contagious. You feel good, therefore you want everyone you know to also experience the same feeling for themselves. The best way to do that is to teach them to donate and give to worthy causes. For those, who are just starting out donating and giving to worthy causes, might still be learning just how impactful giving can be, and how richly blessed their life can become. For others who have been giving and donating time, money and talents for a while may already be teaching and instilling these principles in others.
· Realize that Every Little Bit Helps
Arguably, one of the most important lessons that anyone can learn when considering donating or contributing to a worthy cause, is that any little bit helps. You don’t need to be a millionaire with large sums of money ear-marked for various charitable donations in order to make a difference in someone’s life. Even the smallest of donations can add up to making a difference, helping the benefactor to reach their goal. Even then, when you donate to charitable organizations that go to help underprivileged countries around the world, a few dollars can go a very long way in purchasing food, medical supplies, or educational material. When making a donation, don’t think of it from an economic standpoint, when the effect will have far-reaching effects that you will not even begin to comprehend.
· Motivate Friends and Family to Donate
You’ve probably heard it said before that “kindness is contagious”, the same goes for donating and giving to a worthy cause. When your friends and family see that you are donating, volunteering or giving to a worthy cause, they are more likely to do the same. To make a significant difference in the world, it is going to take a village, which is why motivating friends and family members to donate and give when and where they can, adds up to making substantial changes in people’s lives and the world.
· Promote Generosity in Your Children
Your children are watching you, whether you think they are or not. When they see you giving your time, money and talents to various charities and worthy causes, it instills in them the importance of donating and giving when they get older. Teach them at an early age the importance of giving, and how rewarding it can be to give to others who are less fortunate than they are. You’ll be surprised that by teaching them young, these are values that they will take with them as they get older and move into adulthood.
The more you learn about giving, donating and volunteering to help others, the more you’ll want to share the joy you have with others. Teaching by example is a powerful tool to motivate and inspire others around you to adopt the same behavior into their own life. Regardless of their age, you can teach by example those around you to be more generous and to donate to a worthy cause that you believe in to make a difference.
Paying It Forward
Another aspect of teaching is that those who are the beneficiary of generous donations and acts of service, then learn how to pay it forward and bless the lives of others. This is achieved through teaching them to be self-sufficient moving forward, teaching how to plant and garden and harvest food, how to make and sell items to make money, and most importantly how to pay it forward and give back to others in need.
Depending on the individual needs and situation, the way in which they are taught and learn how to pay it forward can and will be different; but teaching how to pay it forward is essential to keeping the circle of giving back going. The old saying of “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish you feed him for life.”, embodies this philosophy of teaching others to be able to stand on their own, so that they are then able to give and bless others.
Other ways in which individuals can be taught the importance of paying it forward, include teaching them about the benefits that come from giving, the joy that comes from giving, and how even though they might feel as though they have a lot to give or offer; any offer, big or small helps.
In my experience, when someone is the recipient of service, donations or charitable acts, they then want to give back, as a way of expressing their gratitude for what they have been given. It’s amazing to see how someone who had the courage to ask for help, then freely and willingly gives help to others who are seeking help.
Any cause or belief that connects givers with receivers, can be deemed a good cause. But it is these causes that go beyond connecting them, to teaching and inspiring others, and encouraging others to pay it forward that it then becomes a worthy cause.
If you’d like to donate to a worthy cause, but aren’t sure where to find a worthy cause, check out agoodcause.com today! A Good Cause provides a safe environment for groups and individuals to ask for help from generous donors who are seeking to do good in their communities and the world. Together givers and receivers through A Good Cause are creating worthy causes that you can feel good about supporting. Once you find a cause that you believe in and want to support, you can be part of the movement of giving and receiving, learning and teaching and ultimately paying it forward.
I challenge you to find a good and worthy cause that you can get behind and support, and then do it! If you can’t find a worthy cause that you believe in and want to support, I challenge you to start one and start making a difference in your community and the world. When you give to others, and support a worthy cause, you will be amazed at how you are blessed by serving and giving to others and seeing the ripple effect that starts with you.
When doing a quick Google search to find out what some good causes might be, you’ll see lists that include: food pantries, child and family services, shelters and homeless services, crisis services and more. Although all of these are “good causes”, dictionary.cambridge.org defines a “good cause” as: a socially useful organization or activity that is not managed for profit. I’d go so far as to argue, that a good cause can be defined as anything that will improve or help an individual, group or organization to achieve a goal, lighten another’s burden or make a difference in the world.
Under this definition, you can find many different causes in which groups and individuals are striving towards a common goal, lending a helping hand, and trying to make a difference in the world. Many of these good causes require financial donations to make their goals and dreams a reality.
Similarly, there are organizations who are committed to improving the quality of life for select groups of people. This can include but is not limited to organizations such as, Ronald McDonald House Charities, American Red Cross, Fisher House Foundation, and United Way. Each organization has a different mission, but at the root of it, they are in support of a good cause that will bring relief and aid to those who are in need.
Now that we have identified what some good causes are, let’s look into each one and see what makes a good cause a good cause based on the definitions given above.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
As a parent, when your child gets sick and ends up hospitalized, the last thing you need to worry about is where you’re going to sleep or where your next meal is going to come from. This is especially true for parents who are far from home, or where a child will be hospitalized for an extended period of time.
It is this mentality that the Ronald McDonald House Charities was built upon—nothing else should matter when families are focused on the health of their child. When staying at a Ronald McDonald House, families are able to enjoy home-cooked meals, private bedrooms and playrooms for kids.
According to the Ronald McDonald House website, the Ronald McDonald Houses are funded and made possible thanks to generous donations from supporters—individuals, organizations and businesses. For those families that need to stay at a Ronald McDonald House, are able to do so for little to no cost, depending on their situation. Their stay can be anywhere from one night, upwards to several months or even a year or more; once again the length of stay will be dependent upon each family’s unique situation.
So, what is it that makes Ronald McDonald House Charities a good cause to support? The fact that families who have a child in need of medical treatment, can stay at a Ronald McDonald House, regardless of their ability to pay, for the duration of their child’s hospitalization or treatments. By not requiring families to pay for their stay, families can focus on their child’s health. Ronald McDonald House Charities believes that when a child is hospitalized, the love and support of their family can be just as powerful as the strongest medicine doctors prescribe. This is why Ronald McDonald House Charities are committed to providing a place for families to stay, where they can be close to their child, during hospital stays and treatments.
A friend of my dad’s is involved with the Ronald McDonald House Charities in his community, and he has invited my dad and others to get involved in raising money. He asks that friends and family members collect and save the tops to their aluminum pop cans. He is then able to take these tops and turn them in for money that is then donated directly to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. It is something that most people are going to toss out as soon as they are done with their drink, something super simple that most people wouldn’t think of, can be used to raise funds and support a good cause.
American Red Cross
During any natural disaster, one of the first groups to respond and render aid is the American Red Cross. That is because the Red Cross offers a wide variety of services that are intended to provide relief and support to those in crisis; to help individuals be prepared in order to respond to emergencies that may arise.
In fact, according to the American Red Cross website, they respond to an average of 60,000 disasters every year, which is approximately an emergency every eight minutes. When responding to a disaster, 95% of disaster relief workers are volunteers. The types of disasters that they respond to vary from home fires to large natural disasters and everything in between.
There are five main areas the American Red Cross focuses their resources on: disaster relief, lifesaving blood, training and certification, military families, and international services. In response to natural disasters, the American Red Cross is able to provide those affected with clean water, safe shelter and hot meals when they need them the most. Following the initial disaster, the American Red Cross stays on, to assist those affected with recovering and lingering community needs. Through their efforts and working closely with community leaders, government and relief agencies, the American Red Cross is able to help organize and implement financial assistance both for immediate needs and longer-term.
Another huge component of the American Red Cross is blood donations as there is no substitute for blood. Everyday there are people across the globe who are in need of valuable blood transfusions, these can include individuals who were in an accident, burn victims, patients undergoing heart surgery or organ transplant, and cancer patients. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood. This valuable service is only possible due in part to generous donations through blood drives. Donating blood is something that any healthy adult is capable of doing.
Other services provided by the American Red Cross include certifications and training to prepare for an emergency situation. This includes first aid training, CPR training, AED (automated external defibrillator) training, babysitting and caregiving training, swimming training, CNA (certified nursing assistant) training, and BLS (basic life support) training for health care providers. The American Red Cross is also proud to support America’s military and veteran families. This is accomplished through providing support to military families during deployments and emergencies, providing home comforts and critical services on bases and in military hospitals located around the world. One of the biggest roles the American Red Cross plays with the military is by providing 24/7 global emergency communication services across the country and around the world.
What makes them a good cause is that they rely on their volunteers and generous donors to help make their mission possible. From blood drives held all across the country, where generous, life-saving, blood donations are made, to volunteers who respond to a disaster and render aid. The American Red Cross has numerous volunteer opportunities available for those who wish to get involved and lend a hand. These opportunities are listed on their website, where you can learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.
Fisher House Foundation
The Fisher House Foundation is similar to the Ronald McDonald House, in the fact that they provide lodging for families who have a loved one in the hospital. What makes them unique and special is they provide lodging free of charge for military and veterans families. All Fisher House homes are located at military and VA medical centers around the world.
Although the Fisher House Foundation does get funding through a congressional trust fund, they do also receive generous donations that go to help deserving military members, veterans and their families. The donations the Fisher House Foundation receives come in the form of monetary donations, frequent flyer miles, hotel reward points, and other charitable programs and partnerships that are in place. When frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points are donated, they are used to fly families to their loved one, or to put them up in a hotel to be close by where a Fisher House is not available.
Fisher House Foundation is an example of a good cause, because of the good they do for the numerous military members, veterans and military families who have given so much for our country. For those who’d also like to help military members, veterans and their families can make monetary, airline points, or hotel point donations to the Fisher House Foundation. Any individual or organization that would like to make a donation, can learn how to donate frequent flyer miles, hotel reward points or monetary donations through the Fisher House Foundation website.
In addition to these different organizations, agoodcause.com, has ongoing campaigns to help support other good causes in our communities and around the world. These campaigns include: veterans aid collation, ending cancer, alleviating world hunger, children and youth impact, disaster relief, and animal cruelty. For more information about these different causes that agoodcause.com has for ongoing causes, or to make a donation, please visit: agoodcause.com.
There are many different groups, organizations and foundations that provide goods and services to others—all of which are a good cause. All of these different organizations and groups are working and committed to improve and alleviate hardships from those who are suffering or down on their luck. Even though they have similar goals, they each have a different group they cater to, each of which are good causes that benefit others.
I believe when you do anything with the right intention and the right frame of mind to help others, during a time when they need it the most, is a good cause. Whether you donate to a national organization, such as, the ones mentioned here, or to your neighbor’s daughter’s soccer team fundraiser, it is a good cause. When you hear of a cause that seems to speak to you, or moves you to take action or to make a change in your life, it is a good cause, one that you should consider donating time, talents or money to helping the good causes you come across.
Chances are you’ve heard of “Giving Tuesday”, which occurs annually on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the United States. In response to the current pandemic and unprecedented times that we currently find ourselves facing, Giving Tuesday Now was born. On May 5, 2020 will be the first official Giving Tuesday Now day, as a response to the unprecedented needs that have evolved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have all found ourselves trying to juggle a new normal within the past month, whether that be working remotely, homeschooling our children, or suddenly unemployed, we are all dealing with uncertainty. Plans have been cancelled or postponed, birthdays and anniversaries can’t be celebrated how we envisioned them to be; yet we still have so much to celebrate and be grateful for.
It is with this spirit of gratitude that we can participate in Giving Tuesday Now, and give back to our communities, neighbors, friends, and others who are currently struggling. With many people now out of work and a significant number of businesses having to adjust their business model, it is now more important than ever to find ways to give back and support those whose way of life has been drastically impacted. Here are a few ways you can participate in Giving Tuesday Now that doesn’t require a lot of time, money or effort.
$10 and 10 Friends
Going out to lunch with friends, just to go, was a luxury that I enjoyed doing. I’m sure there are a lot of other people who also enjoyed this luxury as well. Currently, being unable to go out to lunch, or gather with large groups of friends has meant I am sitting at home instead of spending money on lunch. As a result, I have the ability to take ten dollars, or however much I typically would spend on lunch and I can donate it and do something good with it. I can donate it to a good cause, I can donate it to my local food pantry, the possibilities are endless. A challenge on Giving Tuesday Now would be to take that ten dollars and do something good with it, and then challenge ten friends, or more to do something good with the money they are saving from not going out to lunch.
Donate to Your Favorite Cause
Everybody has a cause they believe in—ending homelessness, veterans aid, ending child abuse and so much more. On Giving Tuesday Now, take what money you can afford and donate it to a cause or group you believe in or are passionate about. Not sure where to donate or who to donate to, check out all the good causes that are available on agoodcauses.com. When you donate to a cause you believe in and are passionate about, you are helping to create good in the world, especially now during a time of uncertainty.
Order Take Out
Another great way to get involved on Giving Tuesday Now is to plan ahead to order take out from your favorite local restaurant. Everybody has to eat, and while we might not be able to go and sit down inside our favorite restaurant any time soon, many restaurants have implemented takeout options, allowing for patrons to order and receive their menu favorites. This not only gives you an excuse to not cook that night, but you are also doing good by helping a local business keep their doors open.
Adopt a Senior
May typically indicates that the school year is coming to an end and for high school seniors it means that graduation is on the horizon. Unfortunately, due to the current situation, many schools have cancelled in-class learning and substituted with all online classes. This also means many seniors are missing out on their senior prom, spring sporting events, and so much more. Additionally, many don’t know if high schools will be able to hold a typical graduation ceremony that many have become accustomed to. As a result, there are many communities around the country who have implemented “adopt a senior” program. This allows for members of the community to adopt seniors who are graduating high school this year, to provide them with support as their senior year is different than they ever could have imagined. The idea behind “adopt a senior” is to send high school seniors a note, card, gift card, snack or anything to help them feel loved during this challenging time.
Kindness can go a very long way, especially during these times of fear and uncertainty. No gesture is too big or too small, as the recipient will notice and appreciate your kindness. If you have elderly neighbors or family members, offer to pick up groceries for them and drop them off at their doorstep. If you know someone is struggling with fear, anxiety or loss of a job, send them a note letting them know that you are thinking of them. Offer to take a neighbor or friends pet for a walk. We are all at home, take this time to call family members or friends to chat and see how they are doing. Use this time to spread kindness and joy to those who mean the most to us. Additionally, write encouraging notes on your driveway or sidewalk using chalk, or hang an encouraging note in your front window. There are so many different ways in which you can show kindness and love to those around us, which is critical during times of uncertainty and fear.
Giving Tuesday Now is the perfect opportunity to think of others around us and around the globe, and give a little extra to bring a smile to someone’s day or to help lighten their load. These are just a few ideas of things that you can do to participate in Giving Tuesday Now, or any other day when you have the opportunity to give back to others. Think of those around you who could use a little pick-me-up during this pandemic and think about what you can do to help them. Or think of ways that you can give back to your community and make a difference.
During these times of uncertainty and fear, we can all use some extra kindness and generosity, whether we are the giver or the receiver. When we give, we are blessed and experience just as much joy, if not more joy than the receiver. I challenge you to find ways that you can give back to those around you on Giving Tuesday Now, on May 5, 2020 and see how much better you feel after giving back.
Many of us have been self-quarantined for almost a month now. And with no sure end date for staying home in sight, our way of life is quickly changing.
Now more than ever, those around you are needing extra funds in their lives. Maybe you want to raise money for an economically challenged student in your class to provide them with the technology they need to do their school work at home. Maybe your neighbor is one of the millions of individuals who are recently unemployed due to the economic downturn. Maybe you want to help a family member pay their medical bills after being hospitalized with the virus.
Though our Amazon orders have increased and our favorite restaurants only do curbside pickup now, we all still need a way to fund our projects and charitable aspirations. Now that the traditional ways of raising money by selling chocolate bars door-to-door or throwing big festivals at schools are outdated and unsafe, our way of fundraising is also quickly changing.
It’s important to note that our fundraising efforts have been in need of a makeover for a while now. Traditional fundraising has had so many downsides for years and it’s important that we address them.
Outrageous Quotas and Low Returns
For starters, how many boxes of cookie dough do you want me to sell? I remember when I was fourteen, I was on a volleyball team and we were required to sell forty boxes of cookie dough for a fundraiser. FORTY BOXES OF COOKIE DOUGH. I don’t even know that many people, let alone that many people who want to buy a box of cookie dough. Our team had about fifteen girls, so in order to raise the funds we needed, we needed to sell a total of 600 boxes of cookie dough. Why did we need to sell so many boxes? Because we only got about 40% of the profit from each box. This wasn’t a school fundraiser. This was a low-cost distribution model for a cookie dough company. It really wasn’t worth all the effort every girl (and their parents) had to put in in order to reach our lofty goal.
Shaming and Punishments
Which brings me to my next point: these types of fundraisers often come with built-in consequences or shame for individuals (often young students or team players) who do not reach these outrageous quotas. For this volleyball team, we would have to run an insane amount of laps after practice if we didn’t sell forty boxes of cookie dough. My parents thought this goal was also ridiculous, so instead of selling cookie dough, they just wrote a check in order to pay for my new uniform that we were trying to raise funds for. Guess what, my coaches still made me run those laps, even though 100% of that check would go straight towards my uniform, unlike the money from those cookie dough boxes.
I remember in elementary school, we were all given catalogues of items we were supposed to sell to raise money for the school. If each member of the class sold at least one item, the entire class got to go to the fundraising party. We had a poster board (provided by the fundraising company) that the teacher wrote each person’s name on. Once we showed our teacher that we sold one item, we got to put a big smiley face sticker over our name. This allowed the class to know exactly who’s fault it was if we didn’t get to go to the fundraising party. Inevitably, our teachers always bought several items on the last day of the fundraiser so those few kids who couldn’t sell anything wouldn’t be socially ostracized by the rest of the class.
Unsafe Selling Environments
Because the quotas are high and the pressure is even higher, young students and players may turn to selling door-to-door in order to sell enough product. Even before the self-quarantine and stay at home guidelines, this created a dangerous environment for students and players trying to raise money. Especially when their time could be better employed by doing their homework or participating in their extracurricular activities.
It Requires A Lot of Work From Parents
From making home goods for bake sales to volunteering at fundraising festivals, traditional fundraising efforts require a lot of time and energy from parents and teachers. Which can make juggling home and work life even more difficult. In order to support their children and help them avoid the built in shame and punishments that come with traditional fundraisers, parents are often stretched thin, whether by exhausting their resources and buying fundraising items themselves or begging their coworkers to.
Having considered all of these problems with the way that fundraising is currently done, a Good Cause has created a fundraising solution that addresses these concerns.
It’s our goal to have the highest payout for online fundraising, which is why our users get back 92% or more of the funds they raise for their campaigns. With such a high return, outrageous quotas are no longer necessary.
The aGoodCause platform doesn’t provide any incentives like cheap toys or parties for individuals who sell a lot of products. We don’t even have a product to sell! Our fundraising solution is simple and centered around getting you the funds you need; no fluff attached. When creating campaigns, teachers, coaches, and club advisors get to set their fundraising goals. With this flexibility, they can set realistic goals for their students and players, helping to eliminate shame that is normally associated with fundraising.
Our fundraising platform is entirely online, so there is no need for door-to-door selling or hosting big events. This is especially important during the current virus outbreak, when practicing social distancing and staying home is critical for everyone’s health. Families, schools, and teams can still raise the funds they need while following safe practices outlined by government and health officials.
Easy to Do
aGoodCause Fundraising was created with teachers, coaches, parents, students and players in mind. Our simple, easy to use fundraising solution saves everyone time. No more long hours baking cookies, knocking doors, and putting together prizes to auction off. Each student or player raising money can ask for donations from friends and families by simply texting or emailing a link to their fundraising campaign. There are no checks to collect, no inventory to deliver; everything is done online. Teachers, coaches, and families can post about their fundraisers on their social media, allowing more individuals to be reached with little effort.
It is our goal to help keep you safe while accessing the funds that you need. We want to eliminate outrageous quotas, punishments, and unsafe environments by providing a better fundraising solution. Click here and start your fundraising campaign today!
No truer words have been spoken, because laughter is such a powerful emotion that has far reaching effects. Not only do you feel better when laughing, those around you also feel the effects of a good, deep belly laugh leaving you with happy tears streaming down your face. We’ve all had these experiences with laughter. Especially when we are gathered with friends or family, enjoying each other’s company and before we know it, we are in fits of laughter over someone else’s embarrassing moments or reliving humors moments together. More often than not, one story elicits laughs then followed by another, then another and yet another until we are grabbing our sides, from laughing so hard and for so long.
Other times, we enjoy watching something that makes us laugh—either a movie, TV show or even a comedian. Generally, we seek out comedic relief to relieve stress, for pure enjoyment, entertainment, or to enjoy a good laugh. Not only do we seek out entertainment that makes us laugh, more often than not, we share these experiences with those who are important in our lives. We want to share these moments and experiences with those who mean the most to us, because laughter is contagious and provides us with experiences to bring us closer together and moments to reflect back on later, experiencing more laughter and joy.
It has been said countless times, there is power in laughter, or that laughter is the best medicine. Aside from enjoying a good laugh with friends reminiscing about times gone by, are there any other benefits that come from a deep belly laugh? You bet! Studies have found there are health benefits associated with laughing, even giggling quietly to yourself.
There are so many reasons or situations in which laughing comes naturally. There are other times where we might laugh because the situation is awkward, embarrassing or we don’t know how else to react. There are also situations where laughing is the farthest thing from our minds, as it is deemed inappropriate or too depressing for laughter. It is in these instances and many more like them, that remind us that there is more than one way to view a situation.
There is a reason, why most people consider laughter to be the best medicine, in fact people believe it so much that they will go out of their way to find ways to bring laughter into their daily lives.
If you are looking for a way to bring laughter into your day, here are a few ideas:
Read a funny book
Read or tell a joke
Watch a comedy
Spend time with funny people
Practice laughter yoga
Watch your favorite comedian
When you practice laughing and actively seek out humorous things that encourage you to let loose a little bit and laugh, you will find your ability to create laughter becomes easier. So, when hard, difficult or challenging times come your way, you’ll already have mastered the skill of laughter. This will prove to be a valuable skill in times of distress as you won’t have to work as hard to find the lighter side of any given situation.
Learning to harness the power of laughter, doesn’t need to only happen during hard and challenging times, laughter can be found and harnessed during times of joy and happiness as well. Have you ever noticed that during reunions of family or friends, weddings, parties and other joyous occasions elicit bouts of laughter from those in attendance? This is because, when we are surrounded by those whom we have something in common with or that we enjoy being around; we are comfortable and enjoy reminiscing and reliving joyous occasions from the past. Additionally, during these times, we are generally carefree and happy for the occasion, therefore, we are more apt to let loose and enjoy a good laugh than we are during hard times.
Health Benefits of Laughing
Studies have found there are numerous benefits associated with laughing. Whether you are laughing at a TV show or giggling over a joke, your body reacts in a positive way. Some of the benefits of laughter include: stress relief, lower blood pressure, internal workout, hormone release and more.
We know laughter feels good, but it has far reaching effects that aren’t always as obvious. According to Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan from the Loma Linda University, there are amazing benefits to be had from laughter. Here are a few of those benefits:
Lower Blood Pressure. Individuals who have a lower blood pressure are at a reduced risk of serious health complications throughout their lifetime. Dangerous side effects associated with high blood pressure, include an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Those with lower blood pressure are consequently at a reduced risk. Therefore, laughter not only reduces your blood pressure, but subsequently reduces your chance of heart attack and stroke.
Reduces Stress. Stress can wreak havoc on a person’s body, which is why it is going to be in your best interest to reduce stress levels as much as possible. Additionally, when your body is under excessive amounts of stress, your immune system is compromised—not functioning at its peak efficiency. Next time you enjoy an office joke with your coworkers, or end up rolling on the ground laughing with your family, remember that you are not only reducing stress but helping boost each other’s immune system as well.
Works Abs. For individuals who are working to tone their midsection, can benefit from incorporating a round of laughter into their day. When you laugh, your ab muscles are engaged, contracting and expanding, similarly to when you target that muscle group during an exercise routine. While your ab muscles are engaged, your other muscles groups are able to relax. Laughter is a more enjoyable way to tone your mid-section than sit-ups or crunches! So, whether you are intentionally trying to work your midsection or not, try incorporating a good, deep-belly laugh into your routine.
Improves Cardiac Health. Similar to that of working your abs to tone your midsection, a good hardy laugh also provides an alternative cardiac workout. This is especially good news, for those individuals who have had an injury or other condition that prohibits them from participating in a traditional cardiac workout. Laughing gets your heart pumping, ultimately burning a similar number of calories as if you were walking at a slow to moderate pace.
Boosts T-Cells. T-cells are cells found inside your body. They are special cells within the immune system, that are lying in wake, awaiting to be activated. When you laugh, your T-cells become activated, immediately working to fight off any sickness or infection that might be within your body. So, next time you start to feel a little under the weather, try adding laughter to your health care regiment to hopefully ward off the impending illness.
Endorphins. In the famous words of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Endorphins make you happy!”. Not only do endorphins make your happy, they are also your body’s natural remedy to pain. Endorphins are released not only when you are exercising and are physically active, but laughter can also trigger your body to release endorphins.
Overall Sense of Well-Being. When you laugh, you feel better about yourself and your current situation, if even only for a brief moment or two. Those who feel better about themselves, tend to have a more positive outlook on life and their situations. Research has found that those that are more optimistic and have a more positive outlook tend to fight diseases and other ailments better than those who tend to dwell in the negativity.
As you can see, the benefits of laughter extend far beyond the four walls of the room in which you enjoy a good laugh. Engaging in a good, hearty laugh will improve not only your current outlook, but will reap drastic and immeasurable health benefits as well. So, next time you find yourself, rolling on the ground laughing or enjoying a silent chuckle to yourself, remember that your physical health is benefit from the experience as well.
Benefits of Laughter Backed by Science
Scientific studies are often performed to learn or prove ideas that we can only speculate about. As a result of a thorough and extensive study science can provide us with valuable information. Learning the full power and benefit of the power of laughter is no exception. Even though there have been few studies conducted on the power of laughter, what studies have been done provide us with valuable information about the power of laughter.
While most individuals have experienced the power and benefits that come from laughing in our own lives, a study published in Psychology Today found that in addition to having health benefits, laughter is also an important social tool.
In this study, researchers observed 1,200 individuals, laughing in their natural environments. As part of this study, researchers observed laughter in a variety of locations. Each time they overheard laughter, they would take note of the gender of the individual who was speaking prior to the laugh, the audience, who all laughed (speaker and audience, just the audience, just the speaker), and what was said immediately prior to the laughter.
Throughout all these observations, researchers discovered that what was said immediately prior to the laugh didn’t necessarily trigger the laugh, so much as another person. This suggests that laughter is stimulated from another person and not necessarily from what is being said. Thus, leading to the conclusion that laughter is a social language that we all speak. Because it is a social language, people are more inclined to laugh in social settings than they are to laugh when they are alone.
Researchers went on to further analyze the social nature of laughter through the use of laughter diaries through students. In these diaries, it was observed and confirmed they earlier observations, that laughter was 30 times more frequent in a social setting than it was in a solitary environment. Very few individuals recorded laughing to themselves in private, where as they were more apt to laugh out loud in social settings.
Researchers in this study also determined laughter is hard to control and can’t be forced. When commanded to laugh, it will generally come out sounding forced or insincere, whereas, a natural laugh will come easily and sound genuine. This simple discovery, proves we can not dictate the brain’s mechanisms for genuine expression.
Throughout the study, researchers also studied the laughing habits of males vs. females and contagious laughter, also known as the laughter virus. It was discovered that on average females laughed more than males, in fact, on average females laugh 126% more often than their male counterparts. What this translates to mean, is that females primarily do the most laughing while males do the most laugh-getting—they instigate the laughing rather than doing the laughing. This is also demonstrated in online dating profiles as many females listed “good sense of humor” as a trait they look for; and men listed “funny” or “humorous” as a personality trait.
Finally, laughter is contagious. Chances are if you’ve ever seen someone doubled over in a fit of laughter, you’ve joined in. Research has found that laughter is contagious. Which can explain why when someone around you starts laughing, others soon join in. Laughter is not only contagious, it is also powerful.
To read more about the research conducted on laughter in this study, visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200011/the-science-laughter
Bringing it Home
I recently went through some pretty serious health issues that were long and extensive. Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I had countless doctors’ appointments, referrals to other physicians, tests, procedures, biopsies and surgery all trying to determine what was wrong. With a diagnosis finally reached, I began down a long and time-consuming treatment plan. My days were instantly filled with countless doctors’ appointments (on top of the ones that I had already had), daily hospital visits, regular blood draws and so much more.
When I was first diagnosed, I thought I would be relieved to finally have answers and know what was wrong with me; instead I sat and cried. I knew with my diagnosis would come a long road to recovery, one that I wasn’t sure I wanted to embark on. I spent the first couple of days, feeling sorry for myself, having my own “pity party”, thinking just how unfair life was. I kept thinking I was much too young to be going through this, and asking the infamous question of “why?”. Why this? Why now? Why me? The list goes on and on.
I quickly realized I could sit at home, or stay in bed all day and feel extremely sorry for myself and my current situation. But, no matter how depressed I was, it was not going to change the facts and I was still going to have to go through the long treatment process. My other option was to laugh at the situation and learn from it. The first couple of days, I chose the former. I stayed in bed, thinking that I could sleep the next couple of months of my life away. Quickly I realized that was not a healthy way to handle the situation. I then worked hard every day to find something about my situation to laugh about.
When something changed or didn’t go according to plan, instead of getting upset about it, I learned to laugh about it. I honestly believe that it is through the power of laughter that I have been able to endure all that I have been through. Still to this day, I laugh at the absurdity of all that I have been through, joking that it is just my luck that I have been through all that I have.
Just the other day, I was completely blind-sided and received some devastating news regarding my current health issues and situation. While in the moment, it took everything within me, not to burst into tears in the doctor’s office. Since I have had a couple of days to process the news and reevaluate my current situation, I have been given the opportunity to take everything that I have learned about the power of laughter and try to find ways to apply it to my own life, and my current situation. While it hasn’t been the easiest to find the humor in the situation, or to even find something to laugh about; I have noticed a change in my demeanor and overall mood by looking for something to laugh about.
For example, for one of my treatments I had to make a daily trip to the hospital. While there I noticed the other patients, who were there for the same treatment that I was. Initially, I was not thrilled to be there, especially when I observed that all the other patients where two to three times my age! I felt so out of place. One day, I walked into the hospital and there was a new nurse there for training, she took one look at me and said, “You are much too young to be here!”. I laughed and told her that I felt a little out of place! It was through this experience that I made friends with some of the other patients and learned that even though I was “too young” to be going to the hospital every day, I made a joke about it and began to look forward to my daily treatments.
I am still amazed at how powerful of an impact laughter can have on any given situation. Whether it is something minor such as an awkward moment in public or something more serious, such as health problems, laughter can help you get through it. There is such power in laughter, I know this because I have seen this to be true in my own life. There is power in laughter which I chose to harness and use to my advantage to work through an especially trying time in my own life.
Everyone goes through hard and difficult times, it is a part of life. It is what we do during these times that define who we are. Because hard times will come, it is important to know how to get through them. I believe it is important to feel all the emotions that you might experience, but it is equally important to find something to laugh about to help you get through.
So, my challenge to you is to learn to laugh through the hard times, laugh through the happy times. Always find a reason to laugh, as there is a profound power to be harnessed through laughter. Try to find different ways in which to view each situation in which you find yourself. Whether you find yourself in a hard, scary, funny or happy time, there is always going to be another way to view the situation than how it appears on the surface. Challenge yourself to find the different views so that you can find ways to laugh when the situation deems it appropriate, and harness the power of laughter. I promise that as you do so, you will be happier and have more joy in your life.
Depending on the situation, finding something to laugh about might seem impossible or inappropriate. During these times, find an outside source—comedy, entertainment, etc. that can help you to escape and find joy for even a few moments. As you do so, not only will your outlook and perspective of your current situation change, but your overall demeanor and health will improve as well. Challenge yourself to find something to laugh about and see how your attitude and situation improves with the power of laughter being implemented into your daily life.
I promise that there is power in laughter, that if we only try to find that power and harness it in our own lives, we will benefit from it. Learning to find something to laugh about takes time and practice, but it is possible if you are determined enough to try. Once you have learned the power of laughter and how to harness it for your situation, you’ll have a fresh new perspective on life and every situation that you are currently in. Give it a try, I dare you!
Author: Ashley Christensen
White, Rob. “The Power of a Good Laugh.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 20 June 2014, www.huffpost.com/entry/happiness-tips_b_5496790.
“Lighten Up: The Healing Power of Laughter.” The Chopra Center, 27 Oct. 2016, chopra.com/articles/lighten-up-the-healing-power-of-laughter.
Gaiam. “7 Health Benefits of Laughter.” Gaiam, www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/7-health-benefits-of-laughter.“The Science of Laughter.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200011/the-science-laughter.