This post was written by Katya Andresen on behalf of the Case Foundation:
I love the idea of Valentine’s Day. Expressing how you feel about others is a lovely concept. But somewhere along the way, the occasion has become fraught – and not in a good way. My single friends find it lonely and friends in relationships find it weighted with obligation. Where’s the love?
Two years ago, I joined Sasha Dichter’s Valentine’s Day experiment in generosity. The idea was simple: reclaim Valentine’s Day and imbue it with true love – the kind where you give without expectation. Generosity Day is when you seek to be selfless and see what happens when generosity becomes your default.
The first year, we had a small groundswell. Last year, it grew. And this year, thanks to a group of amazing volunteers like Parker Mitchell and Arpit Gupta, we’re going big, hoping to inspire a million acts of kindness.
So do something big or something small. Give of your money, your time, your talent, your love or anything special that in unique to you. We’ve seen people buy coffee for strangers, take someone to a homeless shelter, make dinner for a friend in need or give blood. You could write a letter to someone who touched your life. Tell a friend why they’re wonderful. Or smile at everyone in the street. There are more great ideas here.
When you set out to be generous all day, you may find what I have – that it comes with two interesting emotions. First, fear. If you put yourself out there – especially to strangers – it can feel uncomfortable. That’s not a bad thing. As the Case Foundation has so wonderfully highlighted, living fearlessly means feeling scared and doing something anyway.
The second feeling is happiness. Once you help someone, you will feel amazing. There’s a scientific explanation for this: helping others activates the pleasure center of your brain. Researchers Lalin Anik, Lara Aknin, Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn have shown that people who commit random acts of kindness are significantly happier than those who don’t, and spending money on others makes you happier than spending money on yourself. They also have discovered happier people help others more, and they give more. A positive mood makes you nicer! This makes a circle: giving makes you happy, and when you’re happy you give more, which makes you happier, which makes you give more.
So let’s make this February 14th a day to open our hearts and share our generosity. You could choose to begin the day with a simple act of kindness. You could be wildly generous all day long. You could do that beautiful and needed thing that your heart’s been whispering to you to do. What better way to spend Valentine’s Day?
P.S. from the Case Foundation: if you feel like being generous on February 14, or spot some generosity, upload a photo or video to GoodSpotting.org, or by using the hashtag #GoodSpotting on Twitter.