We live in a time when many of us are self-focused. We’re interested in our own goals, our own wants, and our own needs. We dedicate our time and effort to reaching those goals and getting what we want.
But what if we took a different approach, one that involves focusing on others instead of ourselves? Whether it means volunteering or donating to a local charity, there are many benefits to helping others. These include building character and developing life skills we can use throughout our lives.
The question is: How do we encourage young people to make a habit of helping others? While this may seem as a challenge, it’s certainly doable, but it’s important to start early on. Below, four ways to promote altruism among youth and help make this world a better place.
Get them to identify with a charity or a cause
One of the best ways to encourage young people to make a habit of helping others is by tying the act of giving and helping others to their sense of identity. Studies show that children who identify as “helpers” are more likely to help others when such a situation arises. Our generosity also increases in situations when we are giving away personal possessions and supporting initiatives we identify with.
To promote generosity among young people, you need to make them feel like that’s a part of who they are. This will help increase their generous intentions and make them more willing to participate instead of blocking things out.
…or make it their own
Many of us have passions and interests we pursue in our free time. For some, this can mean exploring ways of preserving the planet and reducing our environmental footprint. For others, this can mean reading up on current social issues and looking for ways to help their community. These interests can be great indicators of what young people could assist with.
Whether we’re talking about volunteering, serving, or fundraising, there are numerous youth opportunities that let young people make a difference. Regardless of whether they’re in elementary, middle, high school or college, they can sign up for programs they’re interested in. They can start by brainstorming their interests in different causes or issues. Alternatively, they can talk to someone in the area and get informed about the needs in their community. By engaging in a cause they’re interested in, young people can contribute to society in a positive way, improve community conditions, and use it as an opportunity to interact and connect with like-minded individuals.
Make helping others feel good
There’s a strong connection between happiness and generosity. When we’re generous, this positively affects our emotions, and we’re more likely to perform another generous act. This is known as the kindness feedback loop, and it’s based on the idea that being kind makes us happier. This would explain why individuals feel happier when they purchase something for other people than when they splurge on themselves. Helping others and making them happy feels good, and we’re more inclined to repeat generous actions in the future.
Another thing worth mentioning when talking about generosity is that it’s socially contagious. What that means is that, by observing others perform acts of kindness, we’re influenced to do the same. Whether we’re talking about charitable donations or other ways of helping people in need, generous acts inspire empathy and compassion. They are powerful tools for nudging young people in the right direction, and definitely something we should take advantage of.
…or make it feel like a sacrifice
Sometimes, the best way to encourage youth to help others is to make them feel like they’re making a sacrifice. This is referred to as the “martyrdom effect”, and it’s another example of how generosity and emotions are connected.
It’s based on the idea that we perceive our acts and donations as more important and meaningful when they involve a certain amount of pain, effort, or suffering we have to go through in order to reach the goal. Because they’re seen as more meaningful, such acts also make people more willing to donate and give more. This is why taking part in a charity race feels more valuable and fulfilling than participating in a charity picnic.
There’s no doubt that helping and giving to others can help you in a plethora of ways. It can boost your well-being, help you grow, and even lengthen your life. It can make you feel more grateful, expand your identity, and increase your self-esteem.
Most importantly, it can enrich your quality of life, which is why we should lend a helping hand and focus on giving – even if we’re not exactly sure what we have to offer.