It doesn’t take a researcher to know that doing nice things for people feels good. But in our fast-paced, time-strapped lives, we may lose sight of this fact. Luckily, sometimes all it takes to be reminded about the power of generosity is a heartwarming example of true kindness — and leave it to a group of elementary school students to give us just that.

Here’s the scoop: When third grader Daniel Hunt walked into his Philadelphia school last week, he had his day made by a surprise toy drive his classmates and teachers has organized for him, People reported. Daniel’s family had lost all of their belongings in a house fire in September, and his school community wanted to do something to show their support. The heartwarming photos of Daniel with his new toys are undoubtedly moving — and you can’t help but ask yourself: When was the last time I engaged in an act of kindness that left someone “happy crying” like Daniel?

There are many reasons to be generous — and they’re not all about the person on the receiving end of your kindness. These acts can improve your relationships with friends and co-workers, infuse more purpose into your days, and allow you to tap into a “helper’s high” that sparks an addictive feel-good energy for the rest of the day. 

Aside from boosting your emotional well-being, research shows that selfless acts can actually make you more successful. The key, according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, Ph.D., is to make sure you’re engaging in “productive giving” — which incorporates generosity into your day but doesn’t lead to burnout. These tips can help:

Give because you want to

Being generous at work might be noticed, but if you’re only giving to get something — like a boost to your reputation or a favor in return — you might end up feeling a bit let down if things don’t pan out that way, says Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., author of The Introverted Leader. “Sometimes we [give] out of a need to please,” she says, “Or because we are reinforced by society for being helpers.” A better impetus for giving? Simply wanting to.

Block out designated giving time

If you’re constantly giving, you could lose sight of the things you need to tend to in your own life. A solution: Grant has suggested blocking out designated giving time: “Chunk your giving into dedicated days or blocks of time rather than sprinkling it throughout the week.” With this strategy, “you’ll be more effective and more focused.”

Know that it’s OK to ask for help, too

There’s a difference between not expecting something in return for an act of kindness, and completely ignoring when you’re in need of a hand yourself. Kahnweiler says it’s important to acknowledge that we do each have legitimate needs — even if they aren’t the motivation behind our generosity. “Women especially tend to be very guilty of this giving mentality,” she says. And if someone doesn’t know what you need, tell them.

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Author(s)

  • Rebecca Muller

    Senior Editor and Community Manager

    Thrive

    Rebecca Muller Feintuch is the Senior Editor and Community Manager at Thrive. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism. Rebecca is passionate about storytelling, creating meaningful connections, and prioritizing mental health and self-care. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. For her undergraduate thesis, she researched the relationship between women and fitness media consumerism.