What does it mean to pay it forward? It means that we are doing something humanistic for someone not to benefit us but those who might not even know who we are. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia has found through her studies that being generous towards others is an effective way to feel joy. Giving can open us up to receiving. Paying it forward does not necessarily have to be done in a monetary manner but in an understated way. This can spark a chain of positivity and have a wider effect on society.

Dunn’s research shows when people use their resources to benefit others, they end up being happier themselves. There needs to be a connection to who or what you are giving. Research by Dunn also indicates that we do need to see or imagine an impact as this will unlock the emotional benefits of generosity. And of course, the giving needs to be a choice and not out of obligation or as a result of social pressures. Click on the link here to watch her Tedtalk.

Given that we are going through a pandemic one could question but how can I give when things seem to be falling apart. The research shows that even when humans are struggling to meet their own needs they can still get joy out of helping others. We can get through this time by doing our part to help others, imagine the connections that come about from lending a helping hand.

Hey happy has some suggestions to consider if you don’t know how to get started:  

  • Pay for a coffee for someone
  • Sponsor meals for families in need
  • Volunteer in some sort of way- animal shelter or an old age/children’s home
  • Decorate rocks and leaving them on trails around your home to spread some love and give the opportunity for people to re-hide them again for someone else.
  • Donate your old books
  • Do something kind for a homeless person
  • Participate in a clean-up day
  • Run/do a sporting event for a good cause
  • Ask for donations instead of gifts for a birthday
  • Donate blood (if you can)
  • Offer your services for free (if this can work financially)
  • Write a positive review for a business after good service
  • Sponsor a child’s school expenses
  • Find opportunities to give out compliments
  • Help someone get active
  • Gift someone a plant
  • Run an errand for a friend or family member who is too busy to do it themselves
  • Email a teacher or lecturer to thank them for the impact they had in your life

If you pay it forward to three people, who again pay it forward to three others themselves, the entire planet could get involved and transformed.

written by Jade Janeke, Registered counsellor