Giving is Living

This post is inspired by Lesson 9 of The Lift Project, a cutting-edge depression and anxiety program. Developed by lifestyle medicine expert Darren Morton, Ph.D., the program is used by companies and groups. Click here to learn more. 

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

– Albert Schweitzer –

Main point: serve and find your smile

As you may recall from this blog post, the limbic system is the part of the brain involved in emotion and action. What affects your limbic system changes how you feel–happiness, sadness, anger: each emotion springs from this brain region.

Scientists from several field are covering on the discovery that humans seem wired to look out for others. Through serving others, our Limbo lifts our mood. We feel good when we do good.

In “The Samaritan Paradox,” published in Scientific American Mind, the authors conclude “our species is apparently the only one with a genetic makeup that promotes selflessness and true altruistic behavior.” Something in us seems to embrace the paradox that, through giving, we receive.

Volunteering time to a worthwhile cause increases wellbeing, health and maybe even lifespan.

A study in the United States indicated volunteering once per week increase peoples’ chances of being “very happy” by the same amount as moving from a personal income bracket of less than $20,000 per year to more than $75000 per year. Volunteering  once per week can offer the same emotional lift as tripling your income!

There’s something about getting outside ourselves that does us good. When we get emotionally down, we tend to focus on ourselves, our concerns and worries. Severely depressed people can be said to have their minds turned agonizingly inward.

Serving helps us realize that our plight might not be so bad after all. We start to look to the positive, creating new social bonds and being immersed in an uplifting social environment. Serving lifts your Limbo, lifting you. 

In considering all the studies that have been done on how to boost emotional wellbeing, former president of the American Psychological Association and founder of the “positive psychology movement,” Martin Seligman, concluded “scientists have found doing a kindness produces the single most reliable increase in wellbeing of any exercise we have tested.”

How to serve smart

Service does not have to be grand-scale. Intentional, strategic acts of kindness are what make a difference in your health and the lives of others–no matter where on the “grand” scale they land.

For some great and simple ideas on how to be a RAKtivist, (“Random Acts of Kindness” activist), visit this website.

Of course, you can take service more seriously, if you choose, and with most things in life, the more you will likely get. For example, half-timers are a growing population who are financially successful but on reaching their middle years, realize they are unfulfilled. Recognizing a desire to move from success to significance, these individuals endeavor to make the second half of their lives really count through service.

Serve Sincerely

 “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

Are you discovering the work that you are called to do?

Keep your eyes fixed on your authentic contribution. Don’t make serving a competition that can lead to discouragement or pride. Serve sincerely. Serve to the very best of your ability.

Serve with your signature strengths

Our greatest highs come from sharing our greatest gifts.

We are all different in our profile of strengths, and there are 24 signature strengths that grow out of six virtues. Try taking the signature strengths questionnaire. An increasing number of studies show that intentionally using your “signature strengths” is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.

Try identifying your top five signature strengths, then use one of those signature strengths in a new way every day for a week.

As Aristotle noted, “Happiness is the consequence of a deed.”

Serve sustainably

While it is uplifting to serve, if you don’t balance giving with receiving, you can experience burnout.

Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, has found this true in companies. He compared the performance of “gives” and “takers” in the workplace and found some surprising results. “Givers” perform both better and worse than “takers.” Those who give, give, and give some more tend to burn out and perform the worst, but “successful givers,” as he calls them, those who recognize that it is necessary to be receivers too, perform best.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Remember to fill your mental and physical and emotional reserves by speaking positively, being active, getting outside, spending time with friends and family, and taking time to rest.

Putting it Into Practice

Become a RAKtivist

Make a habit of doing Random Acts of Kindness. Take notice of its effect on you–the giver–and the receiver. You can either pre-plan it, set a reminder on your phone, or just be on the lookout to show kindness when the opportunity arises.

Use your signature strengths in a new way for good

Make a careful exploration of who you are by identifying your signature strengths. What comes easily to you? What are you passionate about? What strengths do others see in you? Discover what they are and become creative about ways you can activate them for good, then do it.

serve and find your smile


To give, to live. Scientific studies and personal experiences confirms hat humans have an inbuilt desire to contribute and serve, and serving is emotionally uplifting. By serving smart–sincerely, using your signature strengths, and sustainably–you discover a happier life, a more meaningful life. You can live more!

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