Simple acts of generosity can often have a powerful impact on not only the recipients, but for you as well. Many studies have shown that being generous can boost your health and happiness levels. Studies have also correlated increases in happiness levels with increased social connections and relationships.
Somewhat by accident, my husband Steven and I found a simple way to increase not only levels of personal well-being, but also those of people in your community. Here’s what we figured out…
I started cycling a few years ago in order to spend more time with Steven. Prior to this, most of my outdoor exercise revolved around running. While Steven would be out biking for hours, I’d be running with people in my running club. I realized I was spending more time talking with the people in my pace group than with my own husband.
I knew how to ride a bicycle, but had never ridden a road bike. As someone who’s been accused of being relentlessly upbeat, I found myself in a mental spiral of terror out on the bike trail – afraid of falling, afraid of someone or something running into me, afraid of being stranded with a flat tire. It’s gotten better over the past few years; I’ve become more confident, but still hyper-focused on safety.
One thing I learned from an experienced cyclist is that often drivers can’t see you, especially if you’re heading straight on the road and they are turning left. It’s like their brains have a blind spot, as they aren’t looking for you. He suggested making a movement to get their attention, such as a wave. So, I started doing this and added a smile.
Steven started running this past summer (while training for his first Ironman triathlon). I had told him about the smile and the wave, and he noticed when he did this as he was running, most people would smile and wave back. Interesting…
We started an experiment of smiling and waving and seeing how many people we could get to smile and wave back at us. We would smile even more with each wave back and realized that people really liked a simple acknowledgement of their considerate driving and a momentary connection.
A smile and a wave. That’s it. Simple. Friendly. And, I’d say in today’s age of staring at your phone, an act of generosity.