It was a sleepy Sunday morning this weekend as I lay in bed listening to the radio. The presenter was talking about a new thing that is doing the rounds this December, the Kindness Advent Calendar.
It is a lovely idea to focus on giving to others throughout the advent period. Each Christmas the spirit of 'Christmas Present' drives us along in a frenzy of wanting and desire and sometimes, feeling obliged. You know that feeling; the one where you have to visit the relatives, take part in a secret Santa or buy gifts you don't want to buy.
The Kindness Advent Calendar, however, does more than just giving us a shake to remember what the season should be about. We often think about the person on receipt of those gifts. There is something wonderful about making them feel happy but on the flipside, giving and kindness benefits the 'giver' in equal measure.
In Human Needs Psychology which is core to Strategic Intervention, we talk about 6 Human Needs that drive our motivations, emotions and behaviour. Two of those needs are Love & Connection and Contribution.
Focusing on Love & Connection
Giving and receiving love and connection is core to our well-being as humans. We experience this in different ways from romantic love and family, to being needed at work or in the community. Frequently we focus on 'not getting', that we are not getting the attention, affection or acknowledgement we seek. Focusing on lack builds negative feelings of loss and wanting and affecting a person's happiness as a result. There is, however, a way to guarantee that you feel that warm, sustaining energy that the feeling of love offers us: by choosing to give love on a consistent basis. When you do things for others and make them feel happy, or simply feeling the love as you do something good for someone, you are then guaranteed, for yourself, a deep feeling of love and connection, of contentment within yourself. You are then in control of feeling that feeling. Quite simply, if you give love, you are certain to feel love and to elevate your experience of life as a result. Then there is the double-whammy... what goes around, comes around.
The Benefit of Contribution
If asked, most people would not cite 'Contribution' the act of being involved, of contributing to your wider community as a basic need for a human's existence. More commonly people would name the certainty of a roof over one's head and a full belly as the core needs. Yet those are the basic requirements for a human to exist from day-to-day. So, how do we move from surviving to thriving and experiencing joy? 'Joy?' you say. 'How does giving to others get me closer to feeling Joy in my daily life? That's something that few people experience, isn't it?' It is achievable and the concept of this Kindness Advent Calendar brings you a step closer. Humans are social beings. We survived thanks to the support of our tribes and our own contribution to it. We evolved on the basis that 'together is stronger' and 'we support eachother for survival'. Every man or woman had their role to make life better for the group as a whole. In the 21st century, we have an inbuilt, instinctive behaviour to reciprocate because in ancient times, you could not receive something without reciprocating as at some point, everyone was going to need that help. This behaviour has been studied by psychologists and it is a pattern that exists in every human culture.* As such, it is inbuilt in us to contribute. Through contribution and doing good things for other people to make the community or world better as a whole, we gain satisfaction, happiness and joy.
Creating Your Own Advent Kindness Calendar
Google the Kindness Advent Calendar and you will find various examples but why not make your own? It doesn't matter that Advent has already started. Get your diary out and focus on ways you can do acts of kindness for friends, neighbours, co-workers, family members and strangers. Start with a smile to a stranger and feel how powerful that simple action can be. If you're looking for more kindness, love and support in your life, start by treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. It will feel great. I guarantee it!
*Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B Cialdini PHD.