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Four Amazing Benefits of Thinking of You Week

Thinking Of You WeekHow would you like to improve your mental and physical health, become more attractive and have more sex? Believe it or not these are some of the potential benefits of taking part in Thinking of You week this September.

That’s because sending thinking of you cards is an act of altruism that is often rooted in empathy and/or compassion. Specifically, altruism is an action that benefits someone else. It’s different to empathy (our emotional experience of other’s feelings) and compassion (our emotional response to suffering and authentic desire to alleviate it). 

If you have all three it can be good for you, good for others and even good for your business.

It’s Good for You

When we act generously towards others, we benefit as much as those to whom we are giving. The Dalai Lama playfully calls this “selfish altruism.” For example, a Harvard Study has shown that those who give contributions of time or money “are 42% more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t give  (Ask those who have contributed so far to my Mongolian fundraising and those that haven’t - the latter are definitely more miserable).

For those that donate their time, psychologists have identified something called “helpers high”. Giving produces endorphins in the brain that produce a mild morphine type hit. Neuroscientists have even shown that the same part of our brain that lights up when we have sex is triggered by giving money to charity.

It’s not just our minds that benefit, our bodies do too. Compassion can also protect us from stress, through a lower heart rate and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) amongst other health benefits. Spending money on others may also lower blood pressure and those that volunteer have been shown to experience fewer aches and pains, better overall health and less depression. According to one study, older volunteers even have a significantly lower chance of dying.

Taking part in thinking of you week might also improve your love life. One survey of 10,000 people across 37 cultures found that kindness is the single universal requirement and the most important criterion for choosing a mate. Altruists are considered more attractive than non-altruists and they also have more sex.

Taking the time to focus on others rather than ourselves is undoubtedly good for us. What’s more important is that generous acts like sending a card are good for others too. 

Good for Others

None of us ever really know what’s going on inside other people’s minds. So often, those who appear to have everything we might might want in life, decide to end it all. These deaths are a tragic and important reminder for us to take care of one another and let each other know that we are loved. Even those who don’t go to suicidal extremes may still be suffering in silence behind masks of happiness, success, etc. If you love someone, care about them or think they’re great in any way then let them know. A few kind words in card can really brighten someone’s day.

Royal Mail’s scientific study several years ago showed that mothers have a more positive emotional response towards greeting cards compared to electronic messages on social networks, via sms or email. They also felt twice the amount of happiness receiving a card or handwritten note to digital alternatives. Furthermore, a nationwide survey showed that a handwritten note is the main thing mothers want on Mothering Sunday.

We all know how special it is to receive a handwritten card from someone who has taken the time to buy, write and post it to us. The 54 videos I made last year on the Greeting Card Project provides further anecdotal evidence of this. Card sending and acts of altruism in general have positive effects on the neuro-chemicals in our brains.

Leaders that are generous, by giving time and energy for example, can alter the biochemistry of their team. Generous behaviour releases a chemical called oxytocin which creates intense feelings of comfort and security. What’s interesting is that oxytocin is released in the recipient, the giver and anyone who witnesses the sacrifice the leader makes.

By this rational, the sender of a card the recipient and those that see cards on their loved ones mantlepieces might also all receive the same hit of oxytocin themselves. A great example of this is Stephen Kelly, the CEO of Sage Plc, who regularly sends cards to his team to thank them for projects they’ve worked on or contributions they’ve made. Many of them keep the cards on their desks for months afterwards. The knock on effects can be greater than first perceived.

Sending cards is a powerful way to spread good feelings around the world and within businesses.

Good for Business

More and more consumers now want businesses to spread the love too. They want them to treat their employees and suppliers fairly, to be socially responsible in how they source their goods, sustainable with their impact on the environment, ethical in their behaviour and to contribute charitably to communities and causes they value. Essentially, companies that are kind are the more attractive and can generate more sales when this kindness is built into their brand dna.

A study  published in the Journal of Business Ethics showed that charity might make corporations more valuable. What’s important in both business and personal altruism is that the gestures are not perceived as self serving. In other words, the altruism has to be authentic.

Companies are using stories more and more to connect with their customers through their brands. People want these stories to reflect their values and the needs they relate to most. It’s important for businesses to recognise this shift and to embody values like contribution, community and the environment at the heart of their organisations. These are vales that resonate with all of us right now as we see more and more footage online and in the media on the effects of climate change, single use plastics and over consumption of resources. 

Thinking of you week is a great opportunity for businesses to get involved and send cards to their employees, suppliers and customers to let them know they are special and appreciated. It’s a nice alternative to Christmas as it’s secular and not tied to a religious holiday. It’s simply a time to be grateful and kind to others.

It’s Contagious

Many studies have shown that altruism inspires more altruism. Even when the cascading ripple effects diminish over time the total result can be three times greater than the initial act of generosity. 

In fact, I saw this first hand in my fundraising for the Christina Noble Foundation recently. One of my first donations was for £1,000. Soon after I had a second £1,000 donated by someone who was inspired by the first donation. This inspired others to donate higher amounts than I usually receive on fundraising endeavours. In line with one study on giving, the total raised was over three times greater than the initial large donation.

Conversely, selfish behaviour can spread just as easily. When we behave selfishly this can have a negative effect on the behaviour of others that ripples outwards.

So, we have a choice to make about how we live our lives and the impacts our actions have on others. 

We can choose to be kind, generous and loving on a regular basis and have a positive ripple effect on those around us. We can do nothing. Or we can spread negativity.

So, why not choose to spread a little love, send some cards during thinking of you week and create a ripple effect of love and kindness in the world. Who knows what might happen!

5 Great Card Sending Initiatives

Why Thinking of You Week Matters

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