Plant Flowers and Grow Your Relationships

Michelle is one the greatest examples of a what it means to be a loving and selfless individual that I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. I often crossed paths with her while she was providing some act of service for another individual: bringing a hot meal to a new mom, visiting a lonely neighbor in need, or helping to drive a handicapped woman to the airport. All this was done while carting around her two-year-old and even still while she was pregnant with her second child.

Though life wasn’t always a walk in the park for Michelle, she always managed to wear a smile and bring sunshine into the lives of those around her. Her cheery disposition and positive attitude made it easy to become instant friends with her. She always offered a happy “hello” and had the best advice when you needed it. I remember one specific conversation Michelle and I had about why it was important to reach out to others and make friends.

I expressed some frustrations about how fluid my life was at that time. It felt that anytime I met someone new and started to develop a relationship with them, they would graduate from school or get a new job and move someplace else. “I would like to have more friends, but it’s almost pointless for me to try and meet new people,” I said to Michelle, “because in a matter of months they’ll move and I won’t see them ever again.”

“Well,” Michelle began, “Reaching out to others and making friends is a lot like planting flowers. Some flowers only last a season before they’re gone. But the time you spent tending to those flowers, pulling the weeds, and helping them grow wasn’t wasted because you got to enjoy their beauty while they were in bloom, even if it was only for a little while.”

“And think about the positive influence you can have on their life as well. If you take the time to listen to others and better understand their needs, you will be better equipped to provide some type of service for them during the short time that you knew them.”

It is tough when the flowers in our lives fade away, but that doesn’t mean we should never plant them. Michelle taught me that not only does getting to know others brighten our own lives, but it opens the door for us to be able to serve and help them when they need it. As we make an effort to get to know those around us, whether it’s our neighbors, the waiter at our favorite restaurant or a fellow coworker, we increase our social circle and our opportunities to serve others.

This week, take a little extra time to try and get to know those around you better. Here are three simple ways you can try to plant flowers and grow your relationships.

Ask the grocery store clerk how their day went.

Odds are that you shop at the same grocery store at the same time every week. If that’s the case, you probably run into the same grocery store clerk quite often. This week while picking up your carton of milk and bag of chips, ask the cashier about their day and try to remember their name. That way the next time your paths cross you can call them by name and start a conversation easier.

Write a “Thank you” note to an acquaintance at work.

It can be surprisingly easy to go through the motions at the office and not really get to meet the people working around you. This week take a few moments to write a quick thank-you note to someone you would like to get to know better. Not only will it brighten their day, but it will also help to grow your relationship with that individual.

Bake your neighbor some cookies.

Everybody loves cookies, and sharing some with your neighbor is a great way to start a conversation with them. Bringing over a hot plate of chocolate chip cookies will give you a few minutes to ask about their family and how everything is going in their lives. You can even use this visit as an opportunity to offer to help with anything they may need, like raking their leaves or carpooling for school.

Reaching out to those around you doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming, but the relationships you develop will help to brighten your life like a newly blooming tulip or a vase of beautiful red roses.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

The Secret to Happiness

“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.”

-attributed to William Penn

Some time ago, I went through some stuff. It wasn’t fun or happy or positive in any way. I was also incredibly depressed. It seemed like all I could do was think about all the horrible things that this stuff generated. I couldn’t see anything positive about my life, and I was slowly losing hope. Frankly, it sucked rocks. (It’s okay, you guys. I’m doing much better now*.)

Aside from being an English nerd (seriously, Epic-Level-English-Nerd here), I also tend to learn as much as possible about a thing. So, I turned to my trusty laptop (you can still surf the web while laying in bed), and googled phrases such as: ‘how to feel better,’ ‘I hate depression,’ ‘please make depression stop,’ and, my personal favorite: ‘eff you depression.’

In the millions of search results that splayed across my screen, I came across a study claiming that expressing gratitude each day makes for a happier life. [hyperlink: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/Bartlett-Gratitude+ProsocialBehavior.pdf]

I know. I scoffed too.

Thus, began my deep dive into gratitude. I resolved that each day my husband and I would sit down and write three things for which we are grateful. It didn’t matter what they were, but there had to be three things each day. It seemed like such a silly thing. How does writing down three things, which didn’t even take five minutes, make my life happier?

Day 1.

Husband: . . .

Me: Come on. It’s just three things. I’m grateful for you, and for the kids, and for the dogs.

Husband: . . .

Day 2.

Husband: . . .

Husband: eye roll

Me: I’m grateful for fresh air, and our porch, and water.

Husband: (reluctantly) I’m grateful for you and the dogs and animals

Day 3.

Me: I’m grateful for tea, and colors, and plants

Husband: [cannot be found]

Each day I sat down and wrote three things. Sometimes they were items of pride, such as when one of the kids accomplished a difficult task. Sometimes they were items very personal, such as being grateful for the fact that my brain continues to work even if it’s depressed.

After about three weeks, I noticed a change. I was starting to look for the positives in life rather than the negatives. Instead of complaining about a sink full of dirty dishes, I was now being grateful that we had a sink and dishes. Instead of being angry at all the laundry piling up, I was grateful that we had nice clothes to wear and the ability to wash our clothes in our own home.

Honestly, you guys, it worked. Just by focusing on positive things each day, I was able to see my life differently, which also allowed me to live a happier life.

A study (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/6Emmons-BlessingsBurdens.pdf) published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology highlights this phenomenon. (And yes, I consider this a phenomenon – a miracle, a wonder, a marvel.) Researchers Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough created three studies to look closer at the effects of gratitude on daily life.

What is gratitude? Gratitude is appreciating someone or something that benefits our lives. Gratitude is known as a virtue by most religious traditions around the world is touted as a source of happiness and satisfaction in the popular press. Emmons and McCullough sought to answer if “an attitude of gratitude” is worth pursuing.

Spoiler Alert: The next section is a summary of the studies found in the academic paper Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, originally found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/6Emmons-BlessingsBurdens.pdf).

Subjective well-being literature (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripartite_model_of_subjective_well-being) studies the components of well-being which include assessments of life satisfaction by one’s life as well as emotions and moods (i.e., joy, frustration, excitement, and gratitude). Previous work has been published showing that gratitude, while highly related to positive emotions like optimism, joy, and harmony, is semantically different. To scientifically study gratitude, psychologists needed to prove that gratitude is separate from more general concepts such as “happiness.” Fortunately, this previous work shows that positive feelings and gratitude overlaps, the ideas and beliefs associated with gratitude is unique. (From The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography by Michael E. McCullough and Robert A. Emmons [https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/McCullough-GratefulDisposition.pdf].)

Now that the authors have proven gratitude as distinct from other positive emotions, Emmons and McCullough sought to prove that gratitude is not only related to well-being but that it caused well-being. To prove causality, gratitude needs to be manipulated – becoming an independent variable in the scientific study.

[A quick scientific study primer: In an experiment, there are two main components. One is the independent variable, which is the thing the researchers are studying. In this case, it is gratitude. Then there is the dependent variable, which is the result of the manipulation of the independent variable. This is what changes when the researchers control and manipulate the independent variable. In this case, it is what happens when we change the relationship to gratitude in the study.

A variable in research simply refers to a person, place, thing, or phenomenon that you are trying to measure in some way. The best way to understand the difference between an independent and dependent variable is by understanding the meaning of the words themselves. Consider this sentence: “The [independent variable] causes a change in [dependent variable] and it is not possible that [dependent variable] could cause a change in [independent variable].” By inserting the names of the variables in the sentence in the way that makes the most sense, this helps you identify each type of variable. In this study: “Gratitude causes a change in happiness. It is not possible that happiness could change gratitude.”

This is confusing for most university-level undergraduate students so don’t worry if you’re not on top of independent and dependent variables. When in doubt, remember the dependent variable depends on the changes made to the independent variable. We know what the changes are to the independent variable because we are making those changes. But we don’t know how the dependent variable will react. Therefore the dependent variable is the result we are studying. /end lesson]

Emmons and McCullough studied the causal effects of gratitude by creating a series of studies in which participants were randomly divided into separate groups (or conditions). The first group was asked to list things in their lives for which they are grateful. The second group was asked to list “hassles” (things that were bothersome or annoying). The third group did something unrelated or nothing at all. The third group became our control group, by which the other groups were measured (nothing in the third group was manipulated).

Study 1:

For the first study, 192 participants were asked to complete a report each week. The content of the report was determined by which group the participants were randomly assigned. The first group (the gratitude condition) was given the following instructions:

There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.

The second group (the hassle condition) was given these instructions:

Hassles are irritants – things that annoy or bother you. They occur in various domains of life, including relationships, work, school, housing, finances, health, and so forth. Think back over today and, on the lines below, list up to five hassles that occurred in your life.

The third group (the control group) had these instructions:

What were some of the events or circumstances that affected you in the past week? Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below the five events that had an impact on you.

[Note: The first group was asked to assess things for which they are grateful. The second group was asked to list things that were hassles. The third group was asked to list circumstances, but not told to list positive or negative events – just events.)

Participants were also asked to include ratings of mood, physical symptoms, reactions to social support, estimated time spent exercising, and two global life appraisal questions. In a rating grid, participants were asked to rate the extent to which they experienced each feeling. The 30 affect terms were as follows: interested, distressed, excited, alert, irritable, sad, stressed, ashamed, happy, grateful, tired, upset, strong, nervous, guilty, joyful, determined, thankful, calm, attentive, forgiving, hostile, energetic, hopeful, enthusiastic, active, afraid, proud, appreciative, and angry.

The researchers hoped to show that participants who received the gratitude manipulation would experience more positive and less negative emotions over the course of the study, thereby concluding that gratitude had caused these changes in their experience.

After taking the results of the first study, Emmons and McCullough designed the second study, which created a more intense intervention with a stronger manipulation.

Study 2:

Study 2 consisted of 157 participants. The instructions for the gratitude and hassles groups were identical to those used in Study 1. The third group was asked to use a downward social comparison (downward social comparison is when we compare ourselves to others who are worse off than ourselves. Such downward comparisons are often centered on making ourselves feel better about our abilities.). This group was created to appear to be positive on the surface but in reality, might lead to different outcomes than the gratitude focus. Instructions were as follows:

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. We may be better off than others in some ways, and less fortunate than other people in other ways. Think about ways in which you are better off than others, things that you have that they don’t, and write these down in the spaces below.

Study 3:

After the results of the second study, Emmons and McCullough designed a third study where the participants suffered from either congenital or adult-onset NMDs (Neuromuscular Disease Clinic). Participants were assigned to two groups: group one was the gratitude condition used in Studies 1 and 2 and a control condition in which participants rated general feelings such as affect, well-being, and global appraisals.

Results:

The results of these three experiments showed found that people who listed people, things, or actions for which they are grateful (blessings) reported being happier than those who listed hassles. Participants in the gratitude group were also happier than those who did an unrelated task or nothing – although the happiness effect was greatest in comparison with those who listed hassles. It is noted that the researchers didn’t know how long the effects lasted and/or whether or not the participants continued listing things for which they were grateful.

(Beyond the effects on happiness, preliminary results show that gratitude may also have an effect on the length and restfulness sleep and on the amount that one exercises. These effects need more study as these were not the main concerns of the researchers, but the results were promising.)

So, what do the results of these studies mean? Well, just as I discovered when I listed things for which I was grateful, these feelings of gratitude lead to increased feelings of positive emotions and happiness. Gratitude is clearly positive and affects one’s life is a positive way; an “attitude of gratitude” is an attitude worth embracing.

One of the purposes of these experiments was to show that a relatively short and simple manipulation, such as listing three things each day for which you are grateful, has a significant effect on happiness and well-being. Consciously focusing on blessings (i.e., things for which you are grateful), benefits you emotionally and inter-personally. Charles Dickens said:  “Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

I know, you guys. I hear you. You simply cannot fit one more thing into your day. I get it. I challenge you to take five minutes once a day to write three things down. Five minutes, you guys. That’s all.

Try it for 21 days and then let us know how it worked for you.  Please share your experience on Instagram or Facebook.

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*Spoiler Alert: Aside from being grateful each and every day, I also worked with a psychologist and psychiatrist to help manage my depression. My strategies included medication, meditation, and mindfulness, among others. All these things were helpful for me. I highly encourage anyone who is feeling depressed or potentially suicidal to seek professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) phone number (available 24/7) is 1-800-273-8255.

Author: Sally Stocker

My Hero, My Grandma

When we think about abundance, a number of different things may come to mind, the nameless heads of big corporations, the one percent, or even Scrooge McDuck diving into a big pool of gold coins with a rope tied around his waist. These examples all embody one definition of abundance, but as we all know, material abundance isn’t the only way to be rich.

In my life I’ve been blessed to know several people who became rich simply by doing good. They found good causes, devoted their hearts and their bodies to those good causes, and they became wealthy as their happiness deepened, their relationships became stronger, and their homes became more peaceful.

I can think of no better example of this than my husband’s aging grandmother. At 93-years-old my husband’s aging grandmother can no longer be trusted to turn the oven off, or keep herself clean, but caring for her is not a burden for her five kids and many grandchildren. They love doing it. She spent years befriending others, caring for family, and serving others. Now they are delighted to get their chance to care for her.

When I first joined the family, I was amazed by her constant smile and positive attitude. I was also touched watching the hours she spent sitting in her big chair, embroidering decorative dish towels for her family members. I asked everyone who knew her in her younger years, “Was she always this sweet? Or did mother nature make her really nice in her old age?” “This is just her,” was the response I got, followed by numerous stories of her kindness.

When new neighbors moved in and were generally avoided by others for being different, grandma made them cookies and invited them over for hot dog roasts. When a friend seemed sad, she went out of her way to invite her to social functions. When her kids were hurt, she patched them up. When others were happy, she celebrated with them, and when they weren’t, she prayed for them. Grandma has lived a benevolent life, and now, even though her good causes are limited to embroidering kitchen towels and smiling at grand-babies, she is full of abundance. Not because she can dive in a pool of gold coins, but because she is in possession of an abundance of love from others.

Becoming like grandma doesn’t start at 93; it starts today.  Each of us can do a small part to make a tremendous difference for good. Support aGoodCause today! 

 

Author: Amber Mae

 

What Does it Mean to be Truly Wealthy?

 “A man’s true wealth is the good he does in this world.” -Kahil Gibrán

Time Magazine wrote an article based on a study done at the University of Zurich in Switzerland where 50 people were told they would be receiving $100 over a few weeks. Half of those people were asked to spend it on someone they knew, and the other half was told to spend it on themselves. [http://time.com/4857777/generosity-happiness-brain/]

The researchers monitored three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness, and decision-making. Turns out that the people who spent the money on someone else had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness and reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.

There were more positive side effects that were correlated with donating, such as lowering blood pressure and increasing life expectancy.  There are many more studies out there that say nearly the same thing: giving to others allows the giver to feel positive emotions, therefore becoming happier.

Other than feeling good about yourself, there are many other advantages of supporting a good cause.

Support aGoodCause today; you will always be grateful you did.

Author: Sally Stocker

Changing the World Starts with You

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only way it ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Change is inevitable.  It is the only thing consistent in the world truly.  Comfort in life surrounds our ability to adapt to change.  Our jobs, friendships and opportunities look different year after year.   In high school we thought we had found our tribe. Our friends were life. We often prefer them to our family during these formative years.  Yet, look how many we know as intimately today. Very few have stayed in our circle.  We evolved and changed.  It was the nonviolent, civil rights leader Gandhi who stated “be the change you wish to see in the world.” What if we all made conscious choices in our lives with his words at the forefront of our actions? The change we desire is our own reflection.

Tragedy does not discriminate.   We are all vulnerable to heartache.  Illness, death, and untimely accidents are in every walk of life.  We can grow from change or remain stagnant.  The choice is always our own.

Leading actor Keanu Reeves grew up with an absentee father.  He struggled his entire childhood with the learning disability dyslexia. He met failure often in new schools. Keanu lost his best friend, fellow actor River Phoenix, when he was still very young. Soon after, his younger sister began a decade long fight with leukemia in the early 90’s.  It would appear the world was against him and he was set up to fail.  Yet, Keanu’s name is easily recognized in every corner of the world.   He embodies Gandhi’s words beautifully.   Keanu has said he’s made more than enough money to live comfortable for decades.  Keanu is a true humanitarian who helps change the lives around him.  He goes out of his way to learn the names on movie sets he acts.  On the set of his popular film, “The Matrix”, Keanu heard of a set designer who was struggling.  He paid them $20,000 dollars to help at Christmas.  He saw an immediate need and he acted on it.  He was the change this family needed.  Just imagine the difference his generosity made to this man and his family.

Additionally, Keanu often takes the subway.  One would assume a rich and wealthy public figure would have a private car service.  He has been photographed giving up his seat on the subway when crowds did not provide enough seats.  Pregnant and elderly women benefited from his act of kindness. He made a decision to be the change.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”  – Barack Obama.  We all possess the ability to make a difference and be the change.   Be the change the world needs.  The world will adapt around you. Changing the world truly begins with you!

Author: K.A. Potts

What is Your Good Cause?

Are you interested in blessing the life of a family member, friend, neighbor, team, community, natural disaster sufferer, and/or a charity?  Then you’ve come to the right place; a place to support a good cause, no matter what it is.

A Good Cause provides a secure platform to create a good cause and/or donate to a good cause.  Our team of experts are happy to help you reach your goals of creating and successfully promoting a good cause or easily and effectively making a difference in the world by donating to a good cause of your choice.

WANTING TO GIVE MORE

Giving to others assists them to create abundance in their life; in addition, to a huge sense of satisfaction that comes into your own life.  Contributing to those who are going through a difficult time or are less fortunate forces you to step back and take a broader look at your own life. This can sometimes cause you to reevaluate and adjust your focus in your own life in an extremely positive manner. “I have seen and experienced this in my own life on several occasions—both in my own community and internationally. Every experience has left me with feelings of joy, gratitude and leaves me wanting to do more.”

by Ashley Christensen

Create a good cause or donate to a good cause then watch the magic and miracle of the worlds generosity, kindness, philanthropy in its truest form, and sincere charity bless the lives of the giver and receiver.

Author: Ashley Christensen

Setting Up Your Perfect Campaign

As you strive to raise awareness for your cause, it is important that you take advantage of a variety of social media platforms. Promoting your campaign on social media is cost effective and is an easy marketing tool that even the least tech savvy individuals can use. (Learn more here.) Below are four simple ways to use social media to promote your cause and its campaign.

  1. Variety of Content = Having a variety of content will keep your social accounts feeling fresh and will help to engage a wider audience of followers who each enjoy different ways of consuming content. To make the most of your time and efforts, be sure to post the right type of content on each of your platforms.
  1. Authentic Content = As you post content about your cause, be sure to make it as authentic as possible. Effective marketing tells a good story and an engaging, purpose driven story gives your audience something to rally behind. So be sure to provide details, candid photos, and other content that is genuine and real.
  1. Consistent Schedule = If your cause has specific social media accounts that you run, be sure to follow a consistent schedule when posting content. Consistent posting will help keep your audience engaged because they know how often you post and when to expect a new piece of content. As you plan your posting schedule, be sure not to over-post and therefore overwhelm your audience with your content.
  1. Engage = One of the advantages that social media has over traditional marketing outlets is the ability it provides to immediately interact with your followers. As your audience reacts to your content, be sure to engage with them in return. If someone comments on your post, whether positively or negatively, be sure to quickly respond to their statements. If someone shares your content or tags you in their own content, engage with them by liking their post and leaving a comment. Engaging with your audience through social media helps them to develop a personal relationship with your cause and to become more personally invested in it.

by Brindisi Olsen

Using social media to promote your campaign is a great way to reach and engage with your audience.  This is. ultimately,  the best way to gain more support for your cause. If you are looking for more ways to promote your campaign on a specific platform such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, or a blog then here may a great resource for you:  http://www.MasterSocialMediaToday.com.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

Bless the Giver and Receiver

Giving of yourself to help and assist others creates a feeling of abundance, in addition to a sense of satisfaction within your own life. Giving to those who are going through a difficult time or are less fortunate forces you to step back and take a broader look at your own life. This can sometimes cause you to reevaluate and adjust your focus in your own life in an extremely positive manner. “I have seen and experienced this in my own life on several occasions—both in my own community and internationally. Every experience has left me with feelings of joy, gratitude and leaves me wanting to do more.”

by Ashley Christensen

Create a good cause or donate to a good cause then watch the magic and miracle of the world’s generosity, kindness, philanthropy in it’s truest form, and sincere charity bless the lives of the giver and receiver.

Author: Ashley Christensen

Together We Will Change the World

Join us in helping a good cause to help; family, friends, a neighbor, school, club, team, or your favorite charity. Getting started is simple. Simply find a cause worth backing or start your own. Every good cause deserves to become a reality.