These past three years have been hard on families all over the globe. The recession has generated difficult circumstances for anyone touched by unemployment, foreclosures, and worse. Though the global economy has begun to recover, optimism about the future is not widely held.

Into this mix come holiday season stories of “layaway angels” here in the USA. Shoppers put gifts “on layaway,” set safely aside for a limited time to enable the shopper to pay as they can (weekly, for example). For Christmas layaway, the total due had to be paid this week. Anonymous givers/”angels” have sought out layaway staff at K-mart, Target, Walmart, and other stores in their communities and, without fanfare, paid off the majority of the money owed (and in many cases, paid off balances completely).

This week in Denver, CO, burglars broke into a family home and stole nearly every Christmas gift under their tree, a loss of over $700. Less than 24 hours after the story aired on the local newscast, viewers/”angels” contributed gifts plus over $5,000 cash for the family.

These examples of genuine, unselfish giving inspire us (especially since we typically see more frustration and polarization in society than we see giving!). What is powerful is the fact that giving not only benefits the receiver, but it strongly contributes to the giver’s own psychological well being.

Giving Creates Positive Emotion & Positive Health

A 2007 working paper published by the Harvard Business School titled “Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior,” examined a variety of studies about giving and it’s impact. Their analysis validated that “happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).”

Beyond happiness, giving creates well-being in both the receiver and the giver. In my studies of positive psychology, I have learned how vital positive environments are to human well-being. My upcoming book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, co-authored with the fabulous Lisa Zigarmi, provides insights on how leaders and team members can “tweak” their behavior to increase positive benefit to peers, followers, and themselves.

You don’t have to pay off someone’s layaway purchase to create positivity. Here are suggestions from our book that are easy to do and generate great positive benefit for you and others:

  • Express your appreciation, awe, and inspiration with people at work. This ups your positive emotion while strengthening your relationships.
  • Giving specific and authentic praise to others simultaneously affirms them AND awakens the best in you.
  • Make someone you work with feel like THEY are your priority today. Give them your FULL attention. Listen with the intent to understand.
  • There are 10 ways to give: celebrate, listen, generate, forgive, show courage, humor, respect, compassion, loyalty, or creativity.
  • Current research finds giving improves the givers’ energy, morale, self-esteem, positive affect, and overall sense of well-being.

What other ways can you give authentically to others? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Download your FREE excerpt of Chris’ newest book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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