Personal Growth

Practicing Self-love Through Giving

Two happy women chat over coffee at a cafe.

"It’s the most selfish thing I’ve done in my life is give. Because of the joy that I get from it. I love it.”

That quote right there.

It’s from a clip of Denzel Washington, featured on a motivational feed. I came upon it randomly, and the words hit me in a such a way that I had to explore them.

I’m a believer in loving yourself before you can love others. No question there. And certainly, after the past few years and challenging series of events, we could all use some extra TLC. But what if loving others was also a path to self-love?

Whenever I give and whatever I give, I feel elated afterwards. I’ve always wondered why. Hearing Mr. Washington’s quote had me curious again. I did some digging and sure enough, science concurs—when you uplift others, you uplift yourself. Generosity is self-love.

Giving Makes You Healthier

When it comes to self-love, what could be better than taking care of your health? Let’s talk physical health first: Giving has been proven to decrease blood pressure and reduce stress. This, in turn, promotes better overall health and a longer life. In terms of mental health benefits, giving helps with anxiety and depression, and increases self-esteem. When you do something nice for someone, like giving a gift, it releases oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Then there are the social-emotional benefits—giving promotes cooperation and social connection. Studies show that when you give to others, your generosity is often paid forward or returned to you. When you give, you’re more likely to receive. Your relationships and connections grow, which is so important right now. Giving is a win-win in every sense of the word.

Giving Doesn’t Have To Be Grandiose

A study conducted by the University of Zurich found that happiness was associated with generosity, even when it was a one-time gesture or the gift seemed insignificant to the giver.

It’s true, then, that everything you give, big or small, does make a difference. I’ve personally seen it time and again.

On a small scale, I make it a habit to give a smile, wave, nod, or “Good morning!” to every person I meet when I’m running. In return, I receive smiles, waves, nods and “Good mornings.” Granted, not everyone returns the gesture, but most of the time, it is reciprocated. These small, spontaneous moments of connection and spreading joy to others can go a long way. There is an element of surprise and delight that comes with it, and I feel an instant energy boost in the moment.

Need ideas on how to start?

First, make a commitment to yourself to practice giving small gifts regularly—hold the door open for a stranger, send a Thank You email to a colleague, ask the cashier at your grocery store how his day is going, give flowers to your spouse, bake cookies for your children, give an old friend a phone call (not a text, a real phone call!). The possibilities are endless. The key? Keep it consistent and manageable. Practice makes progress. Giving will become second nature, and your mind and body will feel the impact.

Of course, if grand gestures are your thing—go for it! Write the large donation check, sponsor the charity event, volunteer every day, choose a career grounded in service. There is no limit to giving and its benefits—both to the giver and the recipient.

Giving Grows A Community

Picture this: you’re in the drive-through at the local coffee shop. You place your order, drive up to the window and find that the person in front of you has already paid for your drink. Inspired by the act of kindness, you then pay for the person behind you—and so on. We’ve all heard this “pay it forward” story, right? (And some of us have even experienced it!) Giving is contagious and sets in motion a cycle of abundance and prosperity.

Never have I seen such generosity in action as in the aftermath of hurricane Ian. People of all ages, those who have lost everything or lost nothing volunteered and donated in droves. Their generosity is healing and uniting for the SWFL community.

For example, the owner of one local restaurant decided to feed those in need instead of reopening his business. He began by feeding approximately 300 people and continues serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, now to thousands. He regularly talks about how good he feels giving back. No doubt, the goodness is returning to him tenfold.

Fill Your Cup, Give Again

While the beauty and benefits of giving run deep, it’s important to take care of yourself to support others. Giving doesn’t mean give and give and give until you give it all up! Moments of calm, quiet and reflection are life’s charging stations. Make sure to create them to refresh and renew.

And like anything else, if giving becomes another item to check off your list, take a beat and reassess. Genuine, heartfelt, purposeful giving is the kind that serves as a source of self-love and has potential to grow exponentially.


Cultivate self-compassion and self-love with Nurture Your Heart, a four-part program with Daniel Sannito, available now in the Chopra App.