Health and Fitness

The Science behind Paying it Forward

To pay it forward means that instead of paying someone back for something they gave you or did for you, you do something for someone else. Maybe you’ll give up your seat on a subway or train for an elderly passenger, or let someone with only a single item at a grocery store go in front of you. On a rainy day, you might hand an umbrella to someone who needs it more than you do. You might buy a homeless person some food or bring them groceries. The possibilities are endless. These are all acts of kindness and ways to pay it forward in today’s world. 

In the not so distant past paying it forward had more of a legal meaning. “Pay it forward” as implemented in contract law basically refers to loans with third-party beneficiaries. Specifically, the creditor offers the debtor the option of paying the debt forward by lending it to a third person, instead of paying it back to themselves, the original creditor. This contract may include the provision that the debtor may repay the debt in kind, lending the same amount to a similarly challenged party once they have the means and under the same conditions. Debt and payments can be monetary or given through good deeds. These type of transactions, which often start with a gift instead of a loan, is paying it forward.

Paying it forward works very similarly to living in gratitude. However, they are different. One is an actual act of appreciation, the other is the act of giving to someone who you do not ever expect anything back from. Paying it forward is an act of kindness and as much as you do it for others, you also pay it forward to nurture your own soul. Often with philanthropic people who pay it forward, the “do-gooders or givers” do not ever expect to see anything back for their efforts. 

While it is true in our society of write-offs and not for profit business structures like 5013c’s, we allow for both paying it forward as a business model, and rewarding oneself. Most people who are philanthropic like me, refuse to ever take anything for their efforts. Just the act of giving is what makes us feel that we are always helping those less fortunate than we are, or that need a boost.

When you pay it forward, you’re usually changing someone else’s circumstances for the better. Sometimes, you’re saving another person’s life without even realizing it. Paying it forward inspires generosity and compassion. All too often, we think too much about our own needs without considering how our behavior affects others. What we say and do matters. Ultimately, the person paying it forward gains as much as the person receiving the act of kindness.

Paying it forward alters our identity as we affect the culture of our three main dominions —home life, the workplace, and even social networks. People who act more altruistically in all phases of their lives make the world more bearable. Paying it forward introduces you to new people who might enrich your life, both emotionally and financially. People you would have never met under different circumstances sometimes become pivotal players in your life.

By paying it forward, you practice credibility and accountability by considering others’ needs. This carries over into everything you do. You feel better about yourself because you’re trying to make everyone’s lives better, especially your own.

Others trust you more readily and take you into their confidence when they see you paying it forward. They respect you more because they have less reason to doubt you.

Paying it forward also helps to balance and moderate our own ego’s. It’s about living together and enriching the communities and social networks we share our lives in. We all need to wake up in the morning feeling good about ourselves and who we are in this infinite Universe. Paying it forward is also self-affirming. You grow creatively by paying it forward on a regular basis because helping others requires imagination. There’s no telling what those you help are thinking — they’re experiencing life’s unexpected moments that create real-time changes in their own stories and even destiny’s. 

Paying it forward becomes an essential part of a society’s cultural progress, and this extends to future generations. If you have children, they’ll see this in you and carry the same tradition forward. They’ll be more rational, humane creatures who also contribute to the future of your community and eventually others.

On a more scientific note, paying it forward alters your own body’s neural network. Changes take place in your brain and this leads to reflexive behavioral changes. Many people like myself even schedule pay-it-forward moments into their daily routines because kind acts make them feel content. Everyone needs to pay it forward and see how it makes them feel. Remember the key is to never expect anything in return and to do it for the sake of giving, your community, karma, and your own health. The next time you see someone struggling, sad, hurting, or just nervous, do or say something that you know will help them feel better, bring them a cup of soup, spend a few minutes chatting with them, and help lift their spirits. It’s up to us to all of us to act when the opportunity to pay it forward is presented to us.

As always, Live in Gratitude, Pay it Forward, Cherish your Chapters of Love. 

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