Saturday, December 17, 2016

Inspirational Quote for December 17, 2016

“The longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be.”

Of course it will! Stands to reason doesn’t it? The longer you wait for the future, the longer your past will be so you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that the future will be shorter! Definitely a heads up to stop procrastinating, dithering or being indecisive. Decide who you want to be and what you want to achieve in your future and then do your best to take the steps necessary to achieve it. A definite bonus would be to begin the process while you still have more of the future than the past.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Is the Search for Happiness Making Us Anxious?

By Jill Suttie 

A new book argues that the American pursuit of happiness is leading us in the wrong direction.

There is a lot of focus on happiness these days. Our own Science of Happiness online course has attracted over 400,000 participants, suggesting that many of us are thirsting for knowledge on how to increase happiness in our lives.
But according to Ruth Whippman, author of the new book America the Anxious, we are going about this the wrong way. Instead of searching for happiness “practices” that focus on the self—things like meditation or yoga, she argues—we need to start spending time together with other people and doing the things we love—in other words, just “living our lives.”
“My instinct is that…happiness should be serendipitous, the by-product of a life well lived, and chasing it in a vacuum just doesn’t really work,” she writes.
Her book is an amusing, enlightening exposé of the American cultural push for happiness. As a Brit who recently moved to California, Whippman finds herself feeling pretty unhappy with her new surroundings, probably because she left behind so much that made her life meaningful—including her friends and her job. So, she decides to look more closely at the American—especially Californian, perhaps—obsession with happiness and try to figure out why it doesn’t seem to work.

The wrong way to pursue happiness

One of her first stops is to explore the research of Iris Mauss at UC Berkeley, who has found that people who rate happiness as a strong personal ambition tend to be less happy. In one study, Mauss and colleagues asked participants to read an article about the importance of happiness in life before watching a happy film, while others just watched the film. Those who read the article were less happy than those who hadn’t—supporting Whippman’s thesis. The article-readers tried harder to feel positive during the film, but they ended up more disappointed with how they felt.
Instead of looking for individual happiness, Whippman suggests we should be looking to our relationships, as happiness research has consistently confirmed that high-quality social connections are the most important contributor to well-being, even to one’s health. Yet the time we spend pursuing social relationships may be declining in the US, in general, and Whippman thinks that the pursuit of happiness as a personal (rather than a societal) quest might be partly to blame. She points to meditation, where people are encouraged to focus on their own thoughts at the expense of social interaction.
“Although deeply associated with a hippy-commune aesthetic, with its insistence that happiness must be found independently of relationships with other people and the outside world, meditation sounds like a deep expression of emotional individualism,” she writes.
Interestingly, after reading research suggesting that religious people tend to be happier—and Mormons the happiest of all—Whippman visits a Mormon family in Utah and spends time looking more closely at their lives. What she finds—and research supports—is that religion itself doesn’t make people happier; instead, what seems to contribute to happiness in religious populations are the sense of community and the social supports that provide a safety net if you have problems in life. However, the Mormon emphasis on cheerfulness at all costs—particularly for women—may actually be leading to increases in depression in Mormon communities.

Who’s to blame for unhappiness?

But Whippman has a more basic concern: that the cultural message of happiness being under one’s control (rather than tied to one’s circumstances) masks the larger, structural factors that play into well-being. For example, in comparison to other developed nations, Americans have longer work hours and less paid vacation, more insecure employment conditions, more inequality, and no universal health care. Instead of pursuing yoga or gratitude, perhaps we should take care of these basics first, argues Whippman.
“The happiness-seeking culture is clearly supposed to be part of the solution, but perhaps it is actually part of the problem,” she writes.
Though much of the book is devoted to Whippman’s adventures into the more wild and wacky happiness industries—such as Landmark Forum, an outgrowth of “EST,” and Zappos’s hyper-happiness-oriented workplace environment—her stories do raise alarm bells about certain ways that pursuing happiness is being used to increase profit—both for individual happiness gurus and for corporations. She chides employers who teach mindfulness or provide happiness training to employees as a way to increase “work-life integration”—meaning, spending more time at work and less time at home—and to defuse complaints about work conditions.
“No matter how much happiness training they attend, the reality is that the American worker now has a worse deal than at any point since the Second World War,” she writes. “If businesses had a genuine interest in their employees’ happiness, perhaps the single biggest thing they could do would be to encourage them to unionize” (since happiness is linked to union membership).
Whippman also takes aim at a culture that pushes parents to be overly concerned with their children’s happiness and pressures them (especially women) toward adopting intensive and attachment parenting practices to compensate. Over-parenting approaches often make parents stressed and miserable, she argues, and trying to pin child happiness on parents takes the heat off of government to increase child support and paid leave for working parents—something that nations with happier parents have in place.
“Given these hurdles, it is no accident that American parents are some of the unhappiest in the developed world in comparison to their childless peers,” she says.

The evolving science of happiness

Whippman offers her critique in very entertaining prose, some of which made me laugh out loud. But, while I appreciate her exposé of the dark underbelly of the search for happiness, I wished she had focused a bit more on the more uplifting science of happiness—much of which confirms her suspicions—and perhaps cherry-picked a little less. It seems that she was looking for an axe to grind and found support for her concerns at every turn.
If she had, she might have seen that as happiness research has grown and become more sophisticated, it appears to be heading toward much the same conclusion as Whippman: that happiness requires basic social supports to be in place, that countries with more social supports are happier (and healthier) than those that don’t have them, and that social connections, compassion for others, altruism, and meaningful work or activity are all keys to a happy life.
And, while Whippman critiques practices like mindfulness and gratitude, she ignores the research that shows how these practices positively impact one’s relationships—which may be part of the reason they seem to lead to happiness. To see them only as ways to fool the public into complacency may be a bit alarmist, especially considering studies showing the opposite may be true.
Still, the overall thesis of Whippman’s book is an important one: The pursuit of happiness is really about the pursuit of a caring community and supportive relationships, not about simply increasing one’s personal well-being. Perhaps if we all focused more on the well-being of others—and not just on our own happiness—we’d be on the right track. And we’d be a bit less anxious, to boot.

Inspirational Quote for December 16, 2016

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”

We never know how much a kind word or act can affect someone in pain. We may not even realize they are in pain. But, if we move through the world with empathy, understanding and compassion, we are sure to uplift the lives of everyone lucky enough to cross our path. And truly, isn’t that the greatest gift we can give to others?

by Susyn Blair-Hunt

Maya Angelou: The Day I Learned the Value of a Smile

--by Maya Angelou

My paternal grandmother who raised me had a remarkable influence on how I saw the world and how I reckoned my place in it. She was the picture of dignity. She spoke softly and walked slowly, with her hands behind her back, fingers laced together. I imitated her so successfully that neighbors called me her shadow.

"Sister Henderson, I see you got your shadow with you again."

Grandmother would look at me and smile. "Well, I guess you’re right. If I stop, she stops. If I go, she goes."

When I was thirteen, my grandmother took me back to California to join my mother, and she returned immediately to Arkansas. The California house was a world away from that little home in which I grew up in Arkansas. My mother wore her straight hair in a severe stylish bob. My grandmother didn’t believe in hot curling women’s hair, so I had grown up with a braided natural. Grandmother turned our radio on to listen to the news, religious music, Gang Busters, and The Lone Ranger. In California my mother wore lipstick and rouge and played loud blues music and jazz on a record player. Her house was full of people who laughed a lot and talked loudly. I definitely did not belong. I walked around in that worldly atmosphere, with my hands clasped behind my back, my hair pulled back in a tight braid, humming a Christian song.

My mother watched me for about two weeks. Then we had what was to become familiar as, "a sit down talk to."

She said, "Maya, you disapprove of me because I am not like your grandmother. That’s true. I am not. But I am your mother and I am working some part of my anatomy off to buy you good clothes and give you well-prepared food and keep this roof over your head. When you go to school, the teacher will smile at you and you will smile back. Other students you don’t even know will smile and you will smile. But on the other hand, I am your mother. I tell you what I want you to do. If you can force one smile on your face for strangers, do it for me. I promise you I will appreciate it."

She put her hand on my cheek and smiled. "Come on baby, smile for mother. Come on."

She made a funny face and against my wishes, I smiled. She kissed me on the lips and started to cry.

"That’s the first time I have seen you smile. It is a beautiful smile, Mother’s beautiful daughter can smile."

I had never been called beautiful and no one in my memory had ever called me daughter.

That day, I learned that I could be a giver by simply bringing a smile to another person. The ensuing years have taught me that a kind word, a vote of support is a charitable gift. I can move over and make another place for someone. I can turn my music up if it pleases, or down if it is annoying.

I may never be known as a philanthropist, but I certainly am a lover of mankind, and I will give freely of my resources.

I am happy to describe myself as charitable.                                                                           

Syndicated from Excerpted from Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Checkups and Tests You Need Now

Routine Physical Exam

Getting a checkup is a way of making sure everything is OK. Some people see their doctor every year for a physical. But there's some debate about whether an annual exam is helpful or needed. How often you should have a checkup depends on many things, including your age, general health, and whether you have risk factors for certain problems. At a routine checkup, your doctor will ask you questions about your health and lifestyle. She'll listen to your heart and lungs. She'll also likely measure your weight and vital signs like blood pressure and temperature.

Height and Weight

Whether you go for a regular physical or for some other checkup, your doctor will likely check your height and weight. He's doing that to measure your BMI, or body mass index. Keeping your BMI in a healthy range helps protect you from problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and more. Your BMI is based on a formula of height and weight. A healthy BMI is between 18.5–24.9. If you're not in that range, your doctor will suggest ways to get to a healthy weight.

Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure rises as your heart beats and falls as it relaxes between beats. It’s a measure of the pressure of the blood in your arteries. Too high can lead to heart disease and stroke. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Doctors define high blood pressure, also called hypertension, as 140 over 90 or higher. The American Heart Association suggests you get your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. If it's high, you'll need to get it checked more often. Ask your doctor how often you should have your BP checked.


This is how much fat is in your blood. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends you get your cholesterol checked every 4-6 years if you're over 20 and don't have heart or blood vessel disease. If you do, they’ll likely recommend checks more often. Other medical groups recommend that men wait until age 35 and women wait until 45 unless you have a risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Tests look for cancer in the colon or rectum by checking for blood or for –tissue growths called polyps. If you don't have any extra cancer risks, you should start getting screened at age 50 and continue until you’re 75. There are different screening tests that may be right for you. Fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) should be done each year. Sigmoidoscopy, in which your doctor checks part of your colon with a lighted tube, plus FOBT should be done every 5 years. Colonoscopy, in which the doctor examines your entire colon with a lighted tube, should be done every 10 years.

Blood Sugar Test

This is a way to check for diabetes or prediabetes. The American Diabetes Association suggests you get tested starting at age 45. The test is strongly recommended -- even if you're younger -- if you're overweight or have diabetes risk factors like high blood pressure. Then you should be tested at least every 3 years or more often, depending on the results. It's a simple blood test that measures the sugar (or glucose) levels in your blood.

Skin Check

It's a good idea to check your skin regularly for any changes in moles, freckles, and other marks. The American Cancer Society suggests you do a skin self-exam once a month. Most skin cancers can be found early that way. And when they're found early and treated, they're almost always curable. If you or someone in your family has had skin cancer before, it might be smart to have your skin checked regularly by a doctor.

Breast Exam

Starting in your 20s, if you're woman, you should have a breast exam by a health care provider. It gives you a chance to talk about any changes in your breasts and discuss anything in your health history that might make breast cancer more likely to happen. You can also make sure you know how to do self-exams if you choose. The American Cancer Society does not recommend breast exams, but encourages women to know what their breasts normally look like and report changes to their doctors.


This is an X-ray that looks for changes in the breasts. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 45 and older should have one every year. Other medical groups suggest that women should have mammograms every 2 years starting when they're 50, until they're 74. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.

Pap Test

A Pap test (or Pap smear) checks for cancers in the lower part of the uterus, called the cervix. The doctor uses a special small stick or brush to take a few cells from your cervix for the test. Starting at age 21 through age 29, women should have the test every 3 years. If you're between 30 and 64, you should get a Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) test together every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.

Male Physical Exam

A routine physical for men might also include a checkup of the penis and testicles. The doctor will check the testicles for tenderness, lumps, or changes in size. In looking at the penis, the doctor might notice signs of sexually transmitted illness like warts or ulcers. To check for a hernia, he will ask you to “bear down” or "turn your head and cough." Depending on your age, he may check the prostate for size and any problem areas by inserting a finger into the rectum.

Dental Checkup

Hopefully you brush and floss every day. But it's smart to also see a dentist regularly so she can look for cavities, gum disease, and other problems in your mouth. Some people may need to see a dentist once or twice a year. It depends on your oral health and what you need to do to keep your mouth and smile healthy.

Inspirational Quote for December 15, 2016

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”

Whether it was our parents, our friends or the media, we’ve grown up being told who we should be, what we should do and how to behave. For most of us, this created frustration and stagnancy. Today, take some time to revisit your early childhood, when your life was innocent and carefree. What did you love? How did you feel? What were your interests? Try to reconnect with that purest form of yourself, before the world started trying to reform you to fit with its limited image. Then, give yourself permission to embrace the wonderful free spirit that’s been hiding all these years!

by Susyn Blair-Hunt


In his moving creation, Kindred's Artist-in-Residence, Daniel Sperry gives voice and music to Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, "Shoulders", a poem that speaks "directly to the connection between what we do as parents and the prospect of living in a world where we take care of each other in that same careful, and tender way." Sperry's transcendent work connects with and inspires those "on the quest raise a family, in the most conscious and creative way we can."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Best and Worst Foods for Heartburn

What's OK to Eat, What's Not?

That burning discomfort in your chest or throat may have nothing to do with your heart. It can happen when stomach acid backs up, or refluxes, and irritates your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. Certain foods can trigger it, but they're not the same for everyone. So when it comes to eating, what will help you avoid heartburn?

Eating Too Much

The first thing to think about isn't any specific food: It's the amount you eat at one time. This is one case where bigger isn't better. No matter what food you're eating, how good it looks, or how much you like it, a stuffed stomach makes heartburn more likely. Try using smaller plates to help you trim your portions.

Slow Down

Shoveling food into your face is also a no-no. The three Gs -- grab, gulp, and go -- don't lead to good digestion, and they can make heartburn symptoms more likely, says Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Take your time and enjoy your meals.

Fatty Foods

High-fat foods tend to stay in your stomach longer. And the longer they're there, the more likely there will be discomfort, say Bonci and Elaine Magee, a registered dietitian and author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. Big servings of those high-fat foods -- like a lot of fried chicken, chips, or wings -- are a double whammy.

Cut Back on Fats in Prep

You might be able to bake, broil, grill, or roast your favorite foods instead of frying them. Trim the fat off of meat and poultry, and cut the skin off chicken. Tweaks like these might be enough to tame your heartburn.

High-Acid Foods

Tomatoes (including foods like salsa and marinara sauce) and citrus fruits (such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons) can trigger heartburn, especially if you eat them by themselves, on an empty stomach. Vinegar is another acid, and it's a common ingredient in salad dressings and other dishes.

Explore Your Options

Try other fruits and vegetables with less acid to give your tummy a break. Or limit your portion size of acidic foods, and offset them with something else. For instance, use less tomato sauce on your pasta and have a little meat or extra veggies at the same time. Experiment to find your comfort zone.

Watch What You Drink, Too

Certain beverages can make heartburn more likely. Drinks with caffeine (that's decaf coffee, too) boost acid in the stomach. Alcohol can relax the valve between your esophagus and stomach, letting acid escape more easily. And carbonation from fizzy drinks can bloat your stomach, which may lead to heartburn. Tomato and citrus juices have acid, too.

Better Beverages

Choose drinks without bubbles and caffeine, such as herbal teas, milk, and plain water. If you must have that coffee, cola, or bloody mary, drinking a smaller size will help.


Sorry, it has caffeine. If you can't bear life without chocolate, see if cutting back does the trick. Maybe you can eat only a bite or two, or just on special occasions. Also consider what other heartburn triggers may be at play. Eating chocolate for dessert at the end of a fatty feast, and by itself on an empty stomach, probably aren't good ideas.

Foods With a Kick

It's not really surprising that the heat from peppery foods and hot sauces can scorch you from the inside. But did you know that peppermint could be a problem? Although it's cool, not fiery, it may relax that gateway valve, leading to heartburn. Flavorful, pungent garlic and onions -- especially raw -- can also be culprits.

Dial Down on the Heat

You aren't necessarily headed for a lifetime of bland foods. Easing up a bit on the spiciness could make a difference. You don't have to drown your wings in hot sauce, for example. Maybe go with two alarms for your chili instead of four. Look for other ways to flavor foods that don't require burning your tongue.

Track Your Triggers

Everyone's different. You might be OK with a mildly spicy meal unless it has tomatoes. You may be able to drink a small cup of coffee as long as you don't gulp it down without food. Make notes or keep a diary to help you pinpoint what you can handle and what leads to heartburn.

Chew Gum

After a meal, chewing gum keeps your mouth making saliva. The extra liquid helps neutralize acid and spurs your stomach to empty its contents into your small intestine faster -- basically, moving your food down the line before heartburn gets a chance to set in. Choose a flavor other than peppermint or mint to keep that barrier valve closed.

Healthy Habits

Don't lie down right after a meal; allow 3 hours between dinner and bedtime. Smoking and carrying extra pounds may also raise your chance of heartburn.

Everyone gets heartburn now and then, but you should talk to your doctor if it happens to you a lot. It could be a symptom of digestive problems.

10 Plants That Help Improve Air Quality Indoors By Removing Pollution

Whether it’s an old house or a new one, your home could be harboring unhealthy toxins. These chemical compounds are found in emissions from paint, plastics, carpet, cleaning solutions, and numerous building materials. Did you know some plants can help improve the air quality? Here are 10 best houseplants that will improve the indoor air quality of your lovely homes!

How to Help Kids Learn to Love Giving

By Jason Marsh 

Five science-based strategies for the holidays (and the rest of the year).

During the holidays, opportunities abound to help kids understand why and how to help people in need, with food drives proliferating and countless organizations making pitches for end-of-year donations.
And there’s scientific evidence that kids should be receptive to those messages: Research suggests that they have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others, from the time they’re very young—one study even found that toddlers enjoy giving to others more than they like getting treats for themselves. Kids, it seems, have a strong, natural drive to be kind and generous.
Except for my daughter.
Or so it seemed last year, when my wife and I tried to involve her in our annual practice of selecting organizations to support with a charitable gift around the holidays. Our then-seven-year-old wasn’t having it—not interested, end of story.
Clearly, there were two possible explanations: She was an exceptionally selfish human being, or I had failed as a parent. Probably both.
I knew that wasn’t true, of course. My daughter had always amazed us with the care and compassion she’d extended to most everyone, from younger neighbors to classmates to characters in her favorite TV shows. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I must have been doing something wrong. How could this obviously caring kid seem so apathetic when it came time to put her (or our) money where her mouth is?
I know from my years working at the Greater Good Science Center that the key lies in nurturing her inner motivation for generosity—it has to be something she wants to do herself, not sees as a chore imposed on her by an outside force (like an anxious parent). Giving, in other words, has to feel good.
“I think helping our kids experience the happiness that comes from giving to others is probably one of the most valuable ways we can nurture generosity in them,” says Lara Aknin, an assistant professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Canada (and the one who led the study suggesting that giving makes toddlers happier than getting). “It sets off this positive cycle: Giving makes people happy and happiness promotes giving.”
So how can we make sure that giving feels good for kids and launches this “positive cycle” of happiness and generosity?
I turned to experts for guidance, determined for things to be different with my own kid this holiday season. While they stressed that research on this topic is far from complete, there are science-based strategies for nurturing kids’ altruistic instincts around the holidays and all year round. Here are five lessons I took away from our conversations.

1. Be a role model—and explain why you do what you do

Research stretching back decades has found that kids are more likely to be kind and generous when they have at least one parent who models that behavior for them. But more recently, research by Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm of Indiana University has underscored that it’s also important for parents to have conversations with their kids about generosity.
One study led by Ottoni-Wilhelm found that adolescents were 18 percent more likely to donate money to a charitable organization if their parents had made any donation of their own in the past year. But if a parent had made a donation and talked with their child about giving, that kid was 33 percent more likely to donate—an increase of 15 percentage points. Similarly, adolescents whose parent did volunteer work were 27 percent more likely to volunteer themselves—and 47 percent more likely if their parent also talked with them about generosity.
“I think we assume that actions speak louder than words,” says Sara Konrath, an assistant professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “But in the case of this particular behavior, it seems like you need both together to effectively teach your children generosity.”
The experts stress that those conversations can and should start early, well before adolescence. Jill Gordon, director of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Indiana (YPII), says that her organization has started to offer programs for children—and their caregivers—as young as three years old, educating them about the various ways they can help others and contribute to their communities. She believes it’s almost never too early for parents to start having those conversations, whether around the dinner table or in the car.
“You can say, ‘Your mom (or dad) and I support these organizations, and here’s why,” she suggests.
Especially in these early conversations, parents don’t need to explicitly encourage their kids to donate time or money—just raising awareness about the parents’ own actions is an important first step. Gordon has found that those conversations really start to “sink in” around the age of eight—my daughter’s age, and also the youngest age some research looks at when examining whether kids give to charity. So perhaps my concerns last year might have been a bit premature.

2. Help them understand the need

For kids to feel compelled to help others, first they have to recognize that their help is actually needed.
Here parents can tap into kids’ strong—perhaps innate—propensity for empathy, which enables them to pick up on the emotions and needs of others. Studies suggest that kids are more likely to help people in need when they try to see the world through their eyes or identify things they have in common. A personal, human connection to someone makes that person’s needs feel more real, harder to ignore, and thus motivates us to alleviate his or her suffering.
“I think that’s one of the most basic things that empathy can do: Alert us to the needs of others and make us motivated to fix them in whatever way possible,” says Kiley Hamlin, a developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia.
Rather than shying away from a person in need, parents can gently encourage their kids to think about that person’s history and experiences.
Or even better, suggests Konrath, they can look for ways to interact with the people they’re helping. Konrath’s kids, ages seven and four, recently donated socks to a local homeless shelter. But even after taking that step, she thinks the idea of “homelessness” might remain an abstract concept for kids their age.
“But talking to actual people and getting to know them,” she says, “changes them from a group of people that kids don’t really understand to real people with names and stories and families that they can understand.”
Jill Gordon has found that by the time children reach five or six years old, it’s productive to start asking them questions about where they see needs in their community. “Maybe that means having an early conversation about homelessness and food hunger,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of supermarkets in this neighborhood—where do you think people get their food?”
By the time students reach fourth or fifth grade, Gordon says, they have the critical thinking and organizational skills to consider bigger actions that they could take to help address those needs, such as organizing fundraisers or service projects, and they can better understand which organizations in their community are meeting those needs.

3. Help them see the impact

A significant finding from studies of adults is that they’ll derive greater happiness from their generosity—and thus be more motivated to give again—if they’re able to see the impact it has on others.
Aknin told me she has seen the same thing play out in her research with kids. In her study of toddlers, she believes they seemed to enjoy giving a treat (Goldfish crackers) more than receiving one because they got to see the recipient of their generosity—a monkey puppet—enjoy their gift right then and there. “They saw exactly how they were giving, and how it was beneficial,” she says.

But the same usually can’t be said for monetary donations. In fact, when kids are younger—roughly until the age of five, according to Hamlin—the whole concept of money is pretty hazy and abstract. So even when they are interested in helping other people, it’s very hard for them to wrap their heads around the benefits of donating money to a cause.
That’s why Aknin suggests involving younger kids—like her own two-year-old son—in forms of charity where they can make a more tangible connection between their actions and their positive impact. For instance, she believes taking them to the grocery store to pick out some nutritious items, then delivering those items to a food bank, will make a greater impression on them than “just setting aside a couple of dollars which, in theory, will go to help others but is not as tangible or concrete.”
As kids get older, perhaps starting around the age of six, Aknin and Hamlin both suggested engaging them in altruistic acts where they can see the impact of their work up close—like by volunteering at a soup kitchen or nursing home, or by helping to clean up a local park—especially if it involves forming strong social connections with the people they help or with fellow volunteers.
And when kids are old enough to grasp the concept of money, there are ways parents can help them appreciate the impact of charitable donations. After Sara Konrath made a donation recently to her local homeless shelter, she showed her seven-year-old daughter the letter of thanks that she received from the shelter, which included stories of people it was serving.
“I told her, ‘That organization needs money in order to run, and we’re sharing our money with them so they can help these people,’” she says. “She really got it. And hopefully one day she’ll remember that and want to make her own contribution.”

4. Make it part of who they are

For Konrath’s daughter, making her own contribution might be a key to building a lasting habit of generosity: Recent research suggests that when people give away something that has greater personal meaning or significance to themselves, they actually feel more committed to the cause they’re supporting and are more likely to keep supporting that cause down the line. 
This resonates with Jill Gordon’s approach at YPII, where they encourage youth to think about philanthropy not only as volunteering their time or donating their money but also as a way to use their personal talents for the greater good.
“Giving and serving, being philanthropic—it doesn’t need to be a separate part of your life,” she says. “It can be part of your identity, part of the activities you’re already passionate about. If you’re into the arts, let’s find a way that you can use those talents. If you’re into sports, maybe you can organize a drive to give away sports equipment.”
The more philanthropy is integrated into what a child is interested in or passionate about, she finds, “the more it tends to stick.”
And, perhaps surprisingly, philanthropy might be more “sticky” if it involves personal sacrifice, according to Lara Aknin. Her research found that kids looked happier when giving away their own Goldfish than when they could take Goldfish from another pot and give those away instead. “I think this suggests that not only is giving rewarding to kids, but also that giving might be especially rewarding when it involves some sense of sacrifice,” she says.
So although it makes sense for parents to want to facilitate their kids’ generosity by making donations on their behalf, it might be more effective in the long run for kids to have some skin in the game.
With that in mind, my wife and I decided not to simply involve our daughter in our end-of-year donations this year. Instead, we divided her weekly allowance into three pots—for her to Spend, Save, and Share—and at the end of the year, she can decide how she wants to donate her own personal Share amount. Which brings me to the next lesson…

5. Give them choice

Though there have been some well-intentioned efforts to involve kids in philanthropy through mandatory service-learning programs, evidence suggests those efforts might backfire.
Decades of research has found that when people are forced to do something kind for others, or even subtly coerced to do it through an external reward, they’ll see themselves as less altruistic and thus feel less motivated to help others in the long run.
Instead, studies by Netta Weinstein and Richard Ryan, among others, have found that people feel happier after performing kind, helpful—or “prosocial”—acts only when those acts are voluntary and self-directed; when they feel pressured to help, they feel worse.
That’s why Jill Gordon stresses the importance of presenting options to kids and giving them choice. “If you’re not involving kids in that conversation, they feel like it’s being forced on them,” she says. “It feels like homework.”
Gordon and others say it’s important to keep in mind that there are different forms of giving: volunteering one’s time, donating money or goods, lending one’s talents to a cause. Not only are some more appropriate for different ages, but some are also more appropriate for different kids. Giving kids the freedom to choose what feels like the best fit for them will increase the odds that they’ll feel good about their generosity and stick with it.
“Giving givers choice—encouraging them to give but allowing them to choose what they give to—can make a big difference in the well-being of the giver afterwards,” says Hamlin. “And we want kids to grow up to be prosocial adults who will continue to give even after we’re not around to make them.”
That’s why, this year, my wife and I resolved to play it cool—no guilt, no coercion.
But one night over dinner a few weeks ago, I casually brought up that we were planning to support a few organizations that we care about—and my daughter instantly chimed in with how she wanted to donate the money from her Share pot: “An orphanage or an animal shelter!” (Her cousins recently adopted a dog from an animal shelter; I’m still not sure where the orphanage idea came from.)
But of course, we want her burst of generosity to come more than a once a year. Our goal is for these activities around the holidays to help build a lasting habit of generosity—a habit that doesn’t only bring her happiness but also teaches a deeper lesson about her place in the world. It’s a lesson that most parents want to teach their kids, and one that Sara Konrath eloquently summed up toward the end of our conversation.
“We’re all interconnected with each other,” she said. “And giving is just a reminder of our human connection to others: Not only are the recipients not alone, because we’re thinking of them, but we are not alone.”