Recently, around Christmastime, my Facebook feed was filled with posts from friends who were at Dunkin Donuts and had their order paid for them by the person in front of them in the drive thru line. They then, in turn, paid for the person behind them. This seemed to catch on and become a frequent occurrence over the holidays.
What would prompt someone to start such a movement? What triggered the first person to decide to make a difference in the day of a complete stranger? Perhaps it was just holiday spirit or maybe someone was just feeling extra generous one day. Whatever the reason, that person was on to something. Not only were they creating a happier day for the person to whom this gestured was paid forward, they were creating greater mental health and happiness in themselves and all the subsequent givers.
We all know that giving to others makes us feel good. We find gratification in helping others in small and large ways. While our motives may be altruistic, we are also benefiting from the transaction as well.
Giving to others helps us direct our attention outwardly. Rather than focusing on ourselves, often critically, we shift our attention to the needs of others, turning down the volume on negative thoughts. The connection between our thoughts and emotions is strong. What we think about has a direct effect on how we feel about our lives and ourselves. Our emotions then translate into actions. By focusing our energies outwardly, we are creating a cycle of positive thoughts, emotions, and actions.
When we focus on others, we become recipients of their gratitude. Even if we don’t receive such gratitude directly, we may see the consequences of our actions. As the recipient of appreciation, this adds to our positive self-talk and promotes a healthier view of ourselves and our personal value. Subsequently we will think and behave in more positive and healthier ways.
Of course there are many ways to give to others. We can formally volunteer at a local charity or community organization. We can donate to a food or clothing drive. We can donate monetarily to any establishment. We can also do the simple things like our Dunkin Donuts giver has done. By giving in any of these ways we are reconnecting ourselves with our human family. We are reestablishing connections through simple acts of kindness and generosity. The feeling of social connection is powerful as well. Feeling connected to our fellow humans and our individual communities helps combat powerful negative emotions related to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. We are helping our brain reestablish neural connections in the areas of our brain affecting our mood. The more we use these connections, the stronger they become.
Companies, too, can benefit by participating in community activities together. Individual workers will benefit emotionally and mentally while the company benefits from an overall morale boost and community visibility and connection. Johnson & Hill Staffing participates regularly in charity events benefiting community and national organizations. Participation is always voluntary, but it is a great way to give busy employees an opportunity to give to others utilizing company resources and connections.
So, the next time we are overwhelmed with life or perhaps not feeling our best or need a morale boost for our employees, why not make a small effort to pay a little forward…and get a priceless return?