Giving. It makes you feel good. Why is that? What actually happens to us when we give to others?
We did a little experiment where we gave people some money, ten dollars. And we said, “Hey, you can keep all this money for yourself or you can give as much of it as you want away.” What we found, consistent with all our past research, was that the more money people gave away, the happier they felt. Conversely though, the more money people kept for themselves the more shame they experienced. ~Liz Dunn
Often times “giving” is seen as an act that benefits the recipient, however research shows that so much more is involved in the act of giving. In fact, it may be the person who is doing the giving that benefits the most! The act of giving can provide benefits ranging from “feeling good” to increased happiness at work and even providing life longevity!
Giving Promotes Happiness and contentment
In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. MRI scans of people who help others regularly have shown decreased activity in the amygdala (part of the brain responsible for negative emotions), and increased activity in the left and right ventral striatum (the areas of the brain responsible for happy feelings when receiving rewards). The right anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate parts of the brain show much less stress-related activity in an individual who is a regular giver as well. These changes weren’t found in people who were on the receiving end of the act. Giving also reduces the amount of cortisol (one of the stress hormones) produced in your body. The result is that regular giving promotes positivity, fights against stress, and starts to create a ripple effect on the ones around you in a positive way. When someone in need receives help, he or she benefits directly from the social support; simultaneously, the giver benefits in specific brain regions associated with stress, reward, and caregiving.
Giving helps relieve stress and anxiety and can improve Self Esteem
Being of help to someone else makes you feel good about yourself. You are making a difference in someone else’s life who truly needs it. This, in turn, releases “feel good” chemicals and hormones (like serotonin and oxytocin) into your system, which leaves you feeling generally happy. Also, taking the focus off of yourself and hardships that you are facing increases global awareness to those around you. When you give to others, you also become grateful for the things that you have been blessed with.
Giving at Work promotes Happiness and Contentment with your Job
Often times, people speculate that altruism at work comes from the secret desire to get ahead or be “well-liked” in order to be promoted or recognized at work. However, one study performed by UW–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs shows that helping others at work makes people happier. It leads to being motivated to help others in order to make a difference. It decreases the likelihood that someone will want to leave their job and promotes looking forward to a day at work. As psychology professor Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tells PBS, “By creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.” Also, an interesting study showed that while playing a muti-player game about finances, those who kept more money for themselves reported less positive affect, more negative affect, and more shame.
Giving Builds better and stronger relationships
Generosity is one of the key factors for a happy marriage, according to a 2011 report from the National Marriage Project. That can translate to being generous with any of the loved ones in your life. You can read my post about DIY gift-giving here, but giving doesn’t end with gifts. It can be the little things, such as a word of encouragement or your arm around someone that shows them you care. I have written a post about self assessment, and one of the free tests is discovering our love languages. Generosity can be interpreted as love in any of 5 languages: acts of kindness, words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, or gift giving.
Giving has been shown to promote Life Longevity
A 5-year study concluded that giving promotes longevity of life. Principal investigator Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, said: “This study offers a significant contribution to the research literature on the relationship between social environment and health, and specifically to our understanding of how giving assistance to others may offer health benefits to the giver by buffering the negative effects of stress.” Social isolation and stress are 2 important factors in mortality as we age. This study showed that activities such as volunteering, providing transportation to others, providing childcare, and running errands made people more resilient in stressful times.
Giving Paves the way for Hope and Gratitude
They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.
—Carl W. Buehner
Meeting a person who makes you happy induces the same happy reaction in the brain as eating chocolate. So, when you impart help to someone and boost their morale, they feel happy when they remember that interaction. They may reciprocate or they may pass it along. When you can’t find any good in this world, be the good you want to see. For others, you can be a practical example of goodness, kindness, and hope. There is plenty of selfishness and cruelty in this world. If, by your actions alone, you can restore someone’s faith in humanity, grab that opportunity with both hands and go for it!