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Promoting Altruism

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Promoting Altruism

In order for altruism to promote happiness, it has to be freely offered.

Volunteer commitments, donations, and acts of kindness won’t make you happier if you feel obligated, overcommitted, or pressured.

Promoting altruism

Suggestions for creating more kindness in your life:

  • Pick one day a week to go out of your way to do extra acts of kindness; if you take on too much it can become routine or a burden, and making it a special event seems to promote positive feelings
  • Vary your acts of kindness; mix up what you do and who you do it for to keep it spontaneous and fresh; this has the additional benefit of exercising your creativity
  • Think of ways to be generous that don’t cost any money; giving the gift of your time and talents can be just as valuable to others and helps you practice your strengths
  • Surprise someone with a gift, favor, phone call, or letter
  • Try to do more of something that doesn’t come easily to you (such as, striking up a conversation with a stranger, or being patient and courteous in traffic)
  • Think of kind acts to do anonymously; tell no one and expect nothing in return

Acts of kindness can start a chain of events where the recipient of your kindness is grateful and is motivated to “give back” or “pay it forward” by helping others. Research has found that people who witness kind and heroic acts are more likely to be generous themselves.

There are times when people may not welcome your kindness. When you are kind or generous to another you are putting yourself in a position of greater power—even if it is simply the very well-intentioned power to give freely.

Giving with thoughtfulness, respect, and humility—and with no expectations in return—can help promote the positive feelings of kindness, rather than triggering negative ones.

The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubormirsky

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