Well-being has been top of our minds over the past 2.5 years as the global pandemic ebbs and flows, increases and decreases, and makes us pivot at a personal and global level. The pandemic has affected how we feel emotionally, with reports showing that worry and sadness were both significantly higher than baseline in 2020, with about 3% more of the population feeling each of these emotions.
Negative emotional affects as a whole was about 8% above its pre-pandemic value in 2020, but has fallen falling almost completely back to baseline in 2021. Similarly, perceived stress was higher by 8% of its pre-pandemic frequency in 2020 but has also fallen back to baseline in 2021. As we recover globally, it is good news that what we did during 2020 and 2021 has enabled us to begin our emotional recovery and find baselines of happiness again.
So how do we continue to increase our well-being with trust, giving and happiness? What role does each play and why is giving a part of this trifecta?
I think we can all say that happiness and being happy is a preferred state of mind if not a required state of mind so we can function and flow through our lives. Various studies indicate that people who are happy are more productive, have better health, can navigate day to day activities (both good and bad) better. “Happy people are more sociable and spend more time with others (Diener and Seligman 2002; Waldinger and Schulz 2010)”. They are also better at cooperation and leading other groups (Argyle 2001).
There are so many benefits to happiness on an individual basis that affect you at home, at work, in school and within your community. The effects on nations when communities are happy reaps even further benefits. The World Happiness Report has been reporting on global happiness for 10 years, documenting the trends of happiness, the indicators for happiness and measuring happiness between all countries. This global research surely indicates that happiness is important, can be measured and has key indicators that show the increasing or decreasing of happiness among people. But I don’t think we need a global report to show us that happiness matters. We all know that happiness is a better, healthier state of mind and we all strive for it. The question remains, how do we get to and maintain that state of happiness. Research points us to the indicators of happiness, with giving, kindness and trust being at the center of the research. It is the trifecta of well-being.
Many studies have looked at trust, both societal trust and individual trust, and how it affects happiness, well-being and our physical health. Since the pandemic, trust and health has been studied even more as it has been used as an indicator for COVID-19 rates in countries. The World Happiness Report focused a good portion of their report on the role trust had in COVID 19 responses. The conclusion of the report states that “Trust and benevolence have, if anything, become more important. Higher institutional trust continues to be linked to lower death rates from COVID-19 to a greater extent in 2021 than in 2020.” Outside of the pandemic this study, Jasielska, D. The moderating role of kindness on the relation between trust and happiness. Curr Psychol 39, 2065–2073 (2020), indicates that “Trust is vital for long, satisfying relationships, successful business transactions, a great atmosphere in the workplace, and a healthy functioning community that enhances the well-being of its members (Helliwell 2006; Putnam 2000). There is ample evidence showing that trust is essential for both individual and national well-being (Helliwell et al. 2016; Kroll 2008; Tov and Diener 2008)”
First lets start off with some encouraging statistics from 2020-2021. The World happiness Report states that:
Although our three measures of prosocial behaviour – donations, volunteering and helping strangers – had differing levels and trends, all showed increases in 2021 in every global region, often at remarkable rates not seen for any of the variables we have tracked before and during the pandemic.
“Global benevolence, as measured by the average of the three measures of prosocial behaviour, has increased remarkably in 2021, up by almost 25% of its pre-pandemic level, led by the helping of strangers, but with strong growth also in donations and volunteering. The COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020 has led to a 2021 pandemic of benevolence with equally global spread. All must hope that the pandemic of benevolence will live far beyond COVID-19. If sustainable, this outpouring of kindness provides grounds for hope and optimism in a world needing more of both.” World Happiness Report
The relationship between trust, giving, and happiness is further studied in the paper completed by Dorota Jasielska as sited above in the paper The moderating role of kindness on the relation between trust and happiness. The conclusion made in this study states:
“As a low level of trust has a bad effect not only on subjective well-being but also on social capital and society’s resilience in response to crises (Helliwell et al. 2016; Putnam 2000; Tov and Diener 2008), it seems desirable to initiate actions that would help to rebuild it. Perhaps the most efficient way of raising social trust in groups and societies would be to design trainings and social campaigns in which both trust and kindness were developed. If people had the chance to learn to trust others through practicing kindness, it could elevate their level of happiness and hence they might be willing to become involved in even more prosocial behaviors. This could have the potential of improving not only their subjective well-being, but also the social capital of countries.”
Look at our Happiness Research and see how giving giving fuels our happiness to positively affect our wellbeing. The simplicity but effectiveness of giving on our well-being will show you why starting a daily habit of giving is the easiest way to support your well-being.
After reading both of these papers, I am going to make this super simple for everyone. Giving increases trust, increases our happiness and enhances our well-being. The debate over which comes first, do we need to trust first or do we need to give first, will continue to be a topic of study. But if we start one of these, giving, we will start to work on increasing and maintaining a positive well-being at a time when we really need it the most. We will increase our trust and happiness and change our world and the world around with one simple action every day. Now how easy is that?
Curious about giving and how it benefits you? Check out the benefits of giving and see how it could help you at school, at work, at home or just your everyday interactions. You are worth it, and so are our communities. Giving makes a difference and it is as easy as 1,2,3.