Volunteering: Is once enough to increase your happiness?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Volunteering
Four Hands Overlaying

This image of four hands is one of the 100-plus Images of America in our new ‘United America’ online gallery. Click the photo to check it out.

Does volunteering make you happy?

Our everyday experience says it does, and a host of scientific studies concur: volunteering one’s time, energy, and resources increases your sense of well-being and happiness.

But is volunteering once enough? Two or three times? Or, do you have to do it on a regular basis?

An answer can be found in an article that appeared last year in the Journal of Economic Psychology. In it, European economists Martin Binder and Andreas Freytag dug into an enormous amount of data from the British Household Panel Survey. This survey has tracked thousands of adults since 1991.

The economists define volunteering as “any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization.” What they found is revealing: Volunteering once is not enough. Rather, “regular sustained volunteering increases subjective well-being.”

Even more: Frequent volunteering is not subject to “hedonic adaptation.” This cumbersome phrase means that each person has a certain happiness level to which he or she returns after events that increase or decrease happiness. This doesn’t appear to be the case for volunteering. “On the contrary” write the researchers, “the sustained and frequent volunteering effort seems to be subject to increasing returns in terms of happiness.”

In other words, the more you volunteer and make it a part of your life, the happier you will be over time.

Does volunteering make you happier?

Are you surprised to learn that frequent and sustain volunteering is the secret to well-being and happiness?

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Categories: Uncategorized

United America, Core Value 5: Self-reliance & individualism

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series United America
Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

The Third Metric—do you know about it?

The Third Metric is a social movement created by Arianna Huffington that’s focused on well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It’s a focus beyond the first two metrics of success: money and power. I was in New York City yesterday, a guest speaker at one of their events. My topic was reciprocity, and I emphasized the importance of giving and asking for help.

Which do you think is more difficult: giving help to others or asking for help?

After 14 years of using the Reciprocity Ring to help groups practice reciprocity, I’ve concluded that giving is the easy part. Most people are willing to help others. The difficulty is asking for help. One reason has to do with one of the 10 core values documented in my new book, United America: self-reliance and individualism. Most Americans have so internalized this value that it’s hard to ask for what one needs.

Today, we are looking at Core Value 5: “Self-reliance & individualism” means “reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Of course, there are some people who have no trouble asking for what they want and they don’t give back. Adam Grant calls them “takers” in his best-seller, Give & Take. For most people, however, asking for help is hard to do. This fact illustrates the double-edged nature of values. Self-reliance is an admirable American characteristic. But taken too far, it becomes a liability.

This week, we talked about the core values of respect for others, symbolic patriotism, freedom, security, and now self-reliance. We’ll continue next week, focusing on the other five values that make up America’s 10 core values.

I typically end each column with two or three questions. Today, I’ll overcome my own reticence to ask for help and make two requests.

Would you tell your friends and family about the free resources related to United America? These include a downloadable poster of the 10 core values and videos of fellow Americans talking values.

One purpose of the book and resources is to stimulate civil dialog. Would you make a comment today and tell fellow OurValues.org readers idea you have for making that happen?

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Categories: Self-Reliance

For the first time, “Happy Holidays” wins over “Merry Christmas”

CLICK on this image to see the entire PRRI graphic.

CLICK on this image to see the entire PRRI graphic.

Christmas—a holiday that 90% of Americans celebrate—is coming. A religious observation for many and a cultural event for others, it presents an annual dilemma: Do you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

For the first time, Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings has edged out Merry Christmas as the salutation of choice, according to a December 2013 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Almost half (49%) of all Americans say that “stores and businesses should greet their customers with ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ out of respect for people of different faiths. Forty-three percent disagree, preferring ‘Merry Christmas.’ Only 8% didn’t venture an opinion on the matter.”

This appears to be a cultural watershed. In 2010, the proportions were reversed. Then, 49% preferred “Merry Christmas’ and 44% preferred a secular greeting.

Is there a “War on Christmas”?

That’s the question posed by PRRI. It’s an eye-catching question, though it may be an indulgence in dramatic license. Still, is there a deeper meaning? Note that the survey item gave the reason for a secular greeting: respect for people of different faiths. Respect for people of different religions, races, and ethnicities is one of the 10 core American values, as we’ve discussed before on OurValues.org.

A preference for secular or religious holiday greeting varies considerably by age, political affiliation, and religious affiliation. Two-thirds of young Americans (ages 18- 29) prefer “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays,” while only 39% of Americans 65+ also prefer a secular salutation. The majority of Democrats prefer a secular greeting, while a majority of Republicans prefer “Merry Christmas.” Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants have the strongest support for the traditional religious greeting; the religiously unaffiliated have the weakest support.

Among friend and family, which greeting do you use?

What’s the norm in your workplace?

Do you express your preferred greeting, or do you say something else?

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Categories: Respect

Extreme Generosity: Does “generosity” mean something deeper?

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Extreme Generosity
Tom Gallagher, at left, selling special newspapers for the Old Newsboys' Goodfellows Fund of Detroit.

Tom Gallagher, at left, selling special newspapers for the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellows Fund of Detroit.

On Monday, I quoted the simple definition of “generosity” used by Notre Dame researchers. But, the researchers also describe, in great detail, the evolution of this term. Centuries ago, the word referred to a gallant notion among the nobility that they should give some gifts. The researchers point out that “generosity” at its best aims at strengthening social and moral bonds throughout a community.

This brings us to OurValues contributing columnist Terry Gallagher, who most recently wrote a series called “The Gift” that went viral to thousands of readers around the world. Terry is a gift-giver himself. Every year, he is active in a century-old Detroit-area program called the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund. Each year, community leaders sell a special edition of a local newspaper and give the collected funds to provide Christmas presents for poor children. The Goodfellows also solicit donations through their circles of friends.

Terry doesn’t even use the word “generosity” to describe his own efforts with the group. Terry’s father, Tom, was a Goodfellow before him and Terry inherited his father’s private list of friends (donors, in this case) who he still contacts each year. Terry says he “works the list” for donations to honor his father, to support the Detroit community and because he wants to keep alive the relationships with these donors.

“My experience with the Goodfellows is not really spurred by a generous impulse,” Terry says. “In part, I do it to push off some of the off-putting parts of Christmas, in my mind, that is, all the commercial stuff. With this, if someone wants to give me a gift, I can tell them what I really want is for them to kick in for the Goodfellows. I’ve already got enough stuff.

“Now, my father’s been dead since 1997, but I still have a few dozen of his supporters on my list, and they know that I follow the same tradition: handwritten addresses, in green ink, SASE enclosed, a funny little card, holiday stamps. And as his cronies have died, I’ve worked to replace them.

“I told his regulars that the old man died but they still were on The List,” Terry says. “Got a lot of tear-stained checks in the mail.”

Hearing Terry’s explanation of his custom, it sure sounds like an earlier definition of generosity that the Notre Dame researchers apparently are trying to revive: Giving to strengthen the bonds within a community.

What do you think?

Do you like the word “generosity”?

What does it mean to you?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Capitalism: So what if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance in life?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Capitalism
Click the cover of the Public Religion Research report on its Economic Values Survey of Americans for 2013 -- to jump to the PRRC website and read either a summer or download the full report.

Click this cover of the PRRI report on its Economic Values Survey of Americans for 2013 — and you will jump to the website where you can read either a summary or download the full 62-page report.

Equal opportunitiy is one of America’s 10 core values. Almost all Americans endorse this principle. Indeed, America is called the Land of Opportunity.

But, is it?

Americans are divided about how well our economic system is working. Americans are also divided when it comes to the reality of equal opportunities. As I mentioned yesterday, those who believe the system is working cite equal opportunities for all as a reason—while those who believe the system is not working cite the lack of equal opportunities for all.

Is it really such a big deal if we don’t have equal opportunities for all?

A sizable minority of Americans say it isn’t: 39% say “it is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others,” according to a 2013 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). A slim majority of Americans (53%) disagree, saying that “one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.”

Attitudes about this issue vary widely by religious affiliation. At one extreme, black Protestants are the most likely to say that it is a big problem if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance in life. Over three quarters (76%) believe so, compared to only 20% who say it isn’t that big a problem if everyone doesn’t have a fair shot in life.

At the other extreme, white Evangelicals are the least likely to see the lack of an equal chance for all as a big problem. Almost half (47%) say that it isn’t really that big of a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others, compared to 42% who say that it is.

Where do you come out on this issue?

Do you believe that it really isn’t that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others?

Or, do you believe that one of the big problems in our America is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.
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Categories: Equal Opportunities

Trust: Is a Trust Gap opening between state and local leaders?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Trust
WE TRUST THESE FOLKS MOST OF ALL! At least that's what Gallup's new polling shows. Americans trust local officials more than national- and state-level officials. This Town Hall is in Munroe Falls, Ohio. (In public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

WE TRUST THESE FOLKS MOST OF ALL! At least that’s what Gallup’s new polling shows. Americans trust local officials more than national- and state-level officials. This Town Hall is in Munroe Falls, Ohio. (In public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Americans are losing trust and confidence in just about every institution—and even in the American people. (Take a look at Monday’s Part 1 in this series for more on that.)

Are there any institutions that Americans trust? For example, how much trust and confidence do you have in your state government—or in your local government?

The answer to these questions is fascinating because we are seeing a Trust Gap opening between those two levels. Americans apparently discern a real difference between their state capitol and their town hall.

Consider these attitudes Gallup recorded toward state officials: About six of ten Americans (62%) have a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in their state governments to handle state problems, according to a new Gallup poll. Over the years, the level of trust in state governments has been volatile. Recently, there’s a downward trend. But, it’s surprising to find that the current level of trust and confidence in state governments is the same as Americans reported in a 1972 Gallup poll.

And how do we view our town halls? About seven of ten Americans (71%) have a great deal or a fair amount of trust and confidence in their local governments to handle local issues. Trust in local governments has been higher and lower in the past, but trust in local institutions doesn’t waver much over the years.

How does trust in state and local governments compare? I did a little arithmetic with Gallup’s numbers and found an interesting pattern: a Trust Gap. Americans used to have similar levels of trust in state and local governments, but in recent years there’s been a growing gap—Americans trust in local institutions is pretty stable, but trust in state governments is declining.

How much trust and confidence do you have in your state government to handle state-level problems?

How much trust and confidence do you have in your local government to handle local problems?

What accounts for the Trust Gap?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.
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Categories: Critical Patriotism

The Gift: Should we look out for Number … 2?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Gift
Click the cover to visit the Amazon page for Grant's book.

Click the cover to visit the Amazon page for Grant’s book.

From Dr. Wayne Baker: Welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher …

Looking out for number one? Many believe that’s the key to climbing the corporate ladder. After all, no one can begrudge you for looking out for your own self-interest: if you don’t take care of yourself, who else will?

The song “Looking Out for #1” by the monster Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive put it most plainly:

I found out every trick in the book
And that there’s only one way to get things done
I found out the only way to the top
Is looking out for number one

But a very influential new book by Wharton Business School Prof. Adam Grant says that you’d probably be better off looking out for numbers two, three, four and so on.

“I think that a lot of people go in thinking it has to be all about me, and yet, most organizations are really interdependent,” Grant said in an interview earlier this year on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio. “You have to collaborate with other people, you have to serve clients, and so oftentimes helping others is a way to actually rise to the top.”

Grant’s thinking is so original, so striking, so contrary to many commonly accepted notions about career success that it merited a cover story in the New York Times magazine in March. According to the story: “The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others.”

The title of the piece? Let’s make it today’s question to readers …

“Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”

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Categories: Getting AheadRespect