“The source of all abundance is not outside you. It is part of who you are.”

—Eckhart Tolle

In a world obsessed with instant gratification, it is easy to get swept up in our own lives and forget about others. We tend to forget there are people out there who are not as fortunate as we are, down on their luck or who simply might need our assistance. Generally, during times of trials or tragedy we see our communities come together through various platforms, one of the most popularly used is the GoFundMe platform.  

Depending on the cause, the number of people who come together to donate can help determine the success of the campaign. When it is for a good cause, one that tugs at a large number or people’s heart strings, the number of those donating increases substantially. As one of the largest fundraising platforms on the market today, GoFundMe has raised a whopping $5 Billion since its launch in 2010.

So, how is it that GoFundMe has been able to help over 2 million campaigns raise so much money? The answer isn’t necessarily cut and dry…people donate to campaigns for a few different reasons. One of the most common is that people donate to campaigns where they know the person or people who the campaign is for personally.  Others donate to campaigns that tug at their heart strings and where they want to help make a difference in helping lighten another’s burden. However, others donate to campaigns where their friends or family know those whom the campaign is for and shared it with them. A large number of people also voluntarily donate to various causes due to the feelings of joy and abundance they experience as a result.

What Is Joy?

“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”

–Khalil Gibran

Before we can answer the question “What brings the greatest joy?”, it is important to define and understand what “joy” is. There are numerous ways in which giving back and giving of ourselves blesses others and our own lives, but do these ways bring us joy?

To answer this, we must first know what “joy” means. According to dictionary.com, joy is defined as: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”. From my experience that is a good definition of joy, but I also believe there is more to joy than just a feeling of happiness. For me, I define “joy” as: “a sense of fulfillment, complete and utter happiness with an overflowing vessel of abundance”.

While each of us define “joy” differently, most of our definitions will surround a feeling similar to that of happiness. Knowing how you define “joy” in your own life, will allow you to determine and define what it is that brings you the greatest joy in your life.

For many, their families are their greatest joy. For others, they might find joy in their careers, hobbies, schooling, community service, religious organizations and various other places. So, ask yourself, what brings you the greatest joy? Is it seeing someone’s face light up when you bring them  baked goods welcoming them to the neighborhood? Is it when you put another’s needs before your own? Is it when you donate monetarily to a cause you believe in and are passionate about?

There are countless ways in which you can experience joy, but do all of these ways bring you temporary joy or long-lasting joy? Research has found these few specific things, can bring you joy, but it is only temporary joy. Temporary joy includes:

  • Having Lots of Friends
  • Being Financially Successful
  • Being Famous
  • Having Children
  • Winning Competitions
  • Traveling
  • Being Highly Creative
  • Having a Big House
  • Winning the Lottery

Why is it that these things bring temporary happiness and joy but not long-term joy?

An Inherent Desire to Help

“The joy that isn’t shared dies young.”

–Anne Sexton

It is human nature, when we hear of a tragedy, crisis or personal trial among those we know, or even complete strangers, that we find a desire within ourselves to help. Often one of the first questions asked when news spreads is, “What can I do to help?”. When it comes to donating to a good cause, it is not considered a business transaction, it is more of a human connection between two or more people who feel a connection and/or a desire to help.

According to the Network for Good: The Nonprofit Marketing Blog, there are fourteen main reasons why people donate to fundraising campaigns online such as GoFundMe. The reasons range from being asked to donate to feelings of wanting to make a difference. Others reported they donated due to their family values, religious beliefs or out of a desire to have a positive image of self/business.

Most people who give of themselves in assisting others, find they are filled with a sense of joy and an overabundance of wanting to do more to help others. This feeling becomes contagious! I have seen this first hand in my own life, giving of your time or monetarily, turns into an addiction of sorts of wanting to continue to help others whom you cross paths with.

Different Ways To Help Others

There are numerous different ways in which you give back and help others. Obviously, the most popular being that of crowdfunding sites, such as aGoodCause, Classy, Fundly, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and many more. If you can’t help out monetarily, there are countless other ways, to help others. These ways can include:

  • Volunteering your time. This can be anything from donating at a homeless shelter, food pantry or a clothing drive.
  • Helping a neighbor. It is easy to overlook those who are closest to us and neglect their needs. This is especially true for neighbors. It can be as simple as delivering a plate of cookies to someone who just moved in, mowing the lawn of someone who is unable to, or offering to help them around their home.
  • Donate to a charity of your choice. Find a charity or organization that you are passionate about, and donate to support their cause. There are literally thousands of organizations and charities that are committed to helping others throughout our communities and around the globe.

While these are just a few ideas of ways in which you can give of yourself, help others and bring joy into your own life. If you are committed to helping others around you, keep your eyes open and opportunities will present themselves.

Psychology of Helping Others

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

—Booker T. Washington

It doesn’t come as much of a shock when we take the time to volunteer, serve, donate and help others, we benefit along with those whom we helped.  Psychological studies have found the benefits exceed beyond experiencing feelings of gratitude and abundance, it goes much deeper—in fact there are physical and health benefits that many givers experience.

In the “The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity” study, conducted in February 2016, researchers studied the impact of giving social support to others on a neurobiological level. Researchers used fMRI brain imaging to pinpoint three specific neurological benefits that came as a result of giving social support to others. Social support is support offered by friends, family, coworkers and others during times of need. This support can come in the form of monetary donations (GoFundMe, cash, gift cards, etc.), time and a multitude of other ways.

Throughout the course of the study, participants were asked about different scenarios in which they were on the giving or receiving end of social support. As expected, participants on both sides experienced lower negative psychosocial outcomes. However, when researchers used fMRI neuroimaging test, they discovered those who were providing the social support showed a greater amount of brain benefits than those on the receiving end. Three specific benefits were discovered included:

  • Reduced stress-related activity in different areas of the brain, specific to that of memories, emotions and decision making.
  • Greater reward-related activity in left and right ventral striatum.
  • Greater caregiving-related activity in the septal area.

Researchers discovered through these three specific areas in the brain that specific activation was only found when the participant gave social support.  This activation was not found when the participant was the receiver of social support. Ultimately, researchers believe by giving support to others, it is part of a bigger feedback loop that makes the experience rewarding for the giver; because the giver ultimately receives more long-term benefits than that of the receiver.

It is this feedback loop, which is what I believe provides us with the desire to continue to give to others continually. Not only do we feel good and experience joy and abundance in our own lives when we help others, we also reap the various health benefits as well.

Benefits of Helping Others

“Every single second is an opportunity to change your life, because in any moment you can change the way you feel.”

–Rhonda Byrne

Not only does helping and giving to others provide us with psychological benefits, there are also proven physical benefits as well. These benefits include: reduced stress levels, staying physically and mentally active, and living a longer life.

  • Reduced Stress Levels: those who actively give of themselves to help, serve and benefit others are able to increase their social networks. When you have a larger social network, you are able to better buffer your stress levels and have more ways to give of yourself to help others. Additionally, when you are in the service of someone else, you can experience feelings of having a purpose and being appreciated by others. Both of which can be expressed and felt by the giver and receiver, which ultimately have stress-reducing effects on the individuals.
  • Mental and Physical Activity: a lot of volunteer activities encourage you to get moving, being physically active and thinking at the same time. Studies have found those who volunteer to help others report they experience better physical health than those who don’t give of themselves to assist others.
  • Live a Longer Life: a review of data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging found individuals who volunteer their time, give of themselves to help others have a reportedly lower mortality rate than those who do not. Other studies have found those who suffer from a chronic or serious illness, experience a decline in pain intensity and depression as a result of helping others.

There are other benefits that come around as a result of giving of yourself to help others. Some of the biggest are the feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. These are all benefits you can notice and experience almost immediately, whereas other benefits might not be as easily noticeable in the moment.

Bringing it Home

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou

A few years ago, my husband and I were presented with the opportunity to donate to a GoFundMe campaign. A gentleman my husband knew and worked with briefly experienced a sudden, unexpected, tragedy in his family. When we were asked by other coworkers if we would consider donating to the cause to help cover expenses, we didn’t have to think about it. We knew we were in a position where we could donate, we knew it would help this family through a very difficult time. So, knowing we could help, we did!

While we didn’t know this gentleman very well, we didn’t know his family or his home life, we still felt that we needed to do what we could to help this family. It went beyond the fact that my husband had worked with him, it went beyond being asked by others to help this family. For us, it was a chance to help someone else through a difficult time. Even though our donation wasn’t the largest, nor was it done to receive recognition, we felt joy, for in some small way we were able to help this family.

I often reflect back on this experience, when I am presented with other opportunities to make a donation.  Whether it be a financial donation to a GoFundMe campaign, a donation of my time, talents or services, if I can help to ease another’s burden, I find myself more willing than I was before this experience.

Abundance Becomes Part of Our Identity

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”.

— Winston Churchill

Why might this be? When we made the decision to make a small financial contribution to this particular family’s campaign, we both felt a sense of gratitude, abundance and a desire to do more. We felt gratitude that we were in a position where we could contribute and hopefully, in some small way make this difficult time in their life more bearable. We felt a sense of abundance, we had both been raised to help those around us in need, to give of ourselves. We wanted to do more to help this family, but due to life, we could only do a little bit. As a result, we have found ourselves helping others who cross our paths.

This sense of abundance we felt, wasn’t a new found feeling. It was a part of us, it is a feeling that has continued to grow, it drives us, and directs the way we live our lives. All from a small moment of making the decision to help a family, we barely knew who was in need. No one would have known if we did not donate, no one would have judged us if we had decided not to contribute, all that mattered was we felt a desire within ourselves to give and assist others in need.

aGoodCause - a boy giving money to a female beggar

This feeling of abundance has carried over to other experiences and opportunities I have had in my life to give of myself to serve and assist others in need. Whether it is a simple act of dropping a couple of bucks into a collection can outside the local supermarket or dropping off food donations to the local food pantry, the same feelings of happiness, joy and abundance are experienced.

For my family and I, the thing that brings us the greatest joy is when we give of ourselves to help others in need. After the first taste of abundance and joy from a modest donation to a good cause, I have sought out opportunities where I can experience the same level of joy and fulfillment.

Giving and Receiving Goes Both Ways

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

–Edith Wharton

I have been on the giving end of donations and service of others, I find it difficult to accept service and help in my own life. Recently, due to changes in careers, my husband and I live in two different states for a brief period of time. During this time, I find myself in need of assistance with some manual labor tasks around the house. I was so hesitant to ask my neighbors and friends for assistance, as that goes against my nature.

I blame this on the fact that I am so accustomed to providing service to others, that I have a hard time accepting it myself. When I finally admitted to myself that I did need help and that I couldn’t do it myself, I was surprised to find just how eager everyone was to provide the help I needed. Not only did they help with the small project I initially needed done, they did more!

When I went to drop off a small thank you gift, they thought I was going to ask them for help with another project around my house! It was through this experience of being on the receiving end instead of the giving end, that I realized how important it is to not only give when we can but to be on the receiving end when necessary.

Through my experience, I believe in order to fully appreciate the benefits, and might I add, blessings that come with giving, we need to also experience receiving service as well. I was able to experience a wide range of emotions from their simple acts of service towards me. My feelings ranged from being humbled, loved, blessed and grateful, and joyful knowing others are so willing to give of themselves and their time to assist me.

What Brings the Greatest Joy?

“Joy is increased by spreading it to others.”

–Robert Murray McCheyne

I believe in order to answer this question of what brings us the greatest joy, will vary from person to person. This is an individual and personal answer that we each must answer and decide for ourselves. For me, my family brings me the greatest joy in my life. While there are other elements of my life that do bring me temporary joy, it is singularly my family and giving back to others that brings me the greatest long-term joy.

Knowing what brings me the greatest joy in my life, allows me to know where I get my strength, joy and desire to pass that joy on to others. This knowledge allows me to be able to refill my cup with joy so that I am able to continue to give of myself to help others. That in turn then allows for me to continue to give of myself to bless others lives and in turn bless my own life.

Finding what brings you the greatest joy in your life, will allow you to do those things and spend time with those who bring you joy. Whether it is your family, career, friends, kids, etc. there are numerous things you can find joy in. It is recommended you find ways outside of your current social network that allow for you to give of yourself, serve others and find joy.

I challenge you, to take some time to ask yourself and find what elements in your life bring you the greatest joy? How can you take that joy and use it to bless and benefit others around you? I promise, the more you give of yourself the more joy you will find in your life!

Author: Ashley Christensen


Sources:

Smith, Craig. “By the Numbers: 6 Interesting GoFundMe Statistics.” DMR, 1 Apr. 2018, expandedramblings.com/index.php/gofundme-statistics/.

“How To Get Donations, 14 Reasons Why People Donate.” Network for Good, 7 May 2018, www.networkforgood.com/nonprofitblog/how-to-get-donations-14-reasons-why-people-donate/.

“3 Specific Ways That Helping Others Benefits Your Brain.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201602/3-specific-ways-helping-others-benefits-your-brain.

Paul, Margaret. “The Greatest Joy in Life.” Dr. Margaret Paul, www.innerbonding.com/show-article/4000/the-greatest-joy-in-life.html.

“Helping People, Changing Lives: The 6 Health Benefits of Volunteering.” Services and Treatments – Mayo Clinic Health System, mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/helping-people-changing-lives-the-6-health-benefits-of-volunteering.

“3 Specific Ways That Helping Others Benefits Your Brain.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201602/3-specific-ways-helping-others-benefits-your-brain.

“7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others.” Mental Floss, 4 Dec. 2015, mentalfloss.com/article/71964/7-scientific-benefits-helping-others.

“Achieving Happiness by Helping Others.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201701/achieving-happiness-helping-others.

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