Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Getting More By Giving More: Creating Positive Spirals

Overnight I received an email from my son Macrae.

Crae *never* emails.  We text, we talk on the phone, but no email for this millenial dude.

But Crae emailed overnight and expressed a heartfelt interest in connecting with his siblings and their kids via Skype.  His reasoning was impeccable:  we have large family reunions annually, but this way we could be more connected by the time we actually connect in person.

Now you have to understand, Crae is in the middle of a challenging job hunt and has a fair amount on his plate.  But out of the blue he emails and thinks about connecting with those he cares about.

It turns out that people all around the world have similar stories to tell about reaching out, caring, and giving.  Check out the "stories" page on the I Like Giving site.  It's all about people feeling good about doing good.

In Barbara Fredrickson's research, she found that people who practiced lovingkindness meditation daily experienced physiological benefits in terms of greater heart rate variability and psychological benefits in terms of greater well-being.     

But here's the catch:  practicing lovingkindness meditation actually led to a greater number of loving experiences in subsequent daily life--which then *added* to well-being and physiological benefit.

In other words, reaching out to others in thought led to reaching out in action, which led to more good feelings and more reaching out:  a positive spiral.

How many traders, consumed by the challenges of their profits and losses, stay isolated in front of their screens, thus facing a negative spiral?

Instinctively, Macrae realized that to overcome personal challenge you have to look beyond personal challenge and broaden your universe.  It's one of psychology's great paradoxes:  When you're not getting enough from life, it's time to start giving.

Further Reading:  Giving Thanks