I recently read a quote from Todd Harper, president of Generous Giving. He said, “People who have learned to be generous are the happiest people.” This quote has me thinking about the role generosity plays in our overall happiness and satisfaction with our life.

His quote certainly seems contradictory to the prominent messages we hear most frequently. Our consumer culture preaches that only if we buy the right products or participate in certain fun activities will we find happiness. The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t prove true in real life. We all know people who don’t have a lot of fun stuff or have experienced very difficult circumstances in life, and yet are happy people. I am convinced that lasting happiness has nothing to do with what you own or what you have done.

When digging deeper into this subject matter, I found some interesting statistics from a book entitled The Paradox of Generosity written by sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson. They surveyed 2,000 individuals and tracked the spending habits and lifestyles of 40 families. Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered an average of 5.8 hours a week. Those who said they were “unhappy” volunteered an average of 0.6 hours. This study also found that people who were characterized as “being emotionally available and hospitable” were much more likely to be in excellent health (48 percent) than those who were not (31 percent).

In simple terms, it seems that when we can focus our energy and resources away from ourselves and onto others, we reap both physical and mental benefits. The study that I referenced also found that for generosity to produce any significant benefits, it has to be something that is sustained over time. One-time generous acts really don’t affect our physical or mental state significantly. Stretching ourselves to regularly give a little more of our time and money can have a lasting effect on those we touch as well as on ourselves. Let’s make the choice to practice generosity. It really does make an impact on you and others!