Giving comes in many different forms such as buying a present for someone, donating to charities or volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter etc. It has been suggested that when we give to others, the hormone, oxytocin, is released and this induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others.
At the beginning of November, my team and I organised an office food collection which was then donated to the Canterbury Food Bank; it was so lovely to see the large number of people who got involved and we had so much food to donate by the deadline. We all felt pretty good about it too which proved these studies are accurate, giving does make you feel good!
Check out these 5 reasons why we should give more:
1) Giving makes us feel happy
Good feelings are reflected in our biology; when people give, it activates areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, creating a ‘warm glow’ effect. This was evident in Michael Norton’s study (Harvard Business School Professor) where he found participant’s spirits were lifted more through giving money to someone else, despite their predictions where they thought they would feel better receiving.
2) Giving is good for health
Reports have shown that giving to others have improved people’s health, particularly those suffering from chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. Researchers suggest that the main reason-giving can help to improve physical health and longevity is because it helps to decrease stress which is linked to health issues.
Stephanie Brown carried out a study in 2003 on elderly couples where she found that those who provided practical help or emotional support to friends, relatives, spouses or neighbours, had a much lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t help at all. Interestingly, receiving help was not linked to reduced death risk.
3) Giving helps a social connection
When you give to others, your generosity is likely to be reciprocated down the line at some point, sometimes to the person you gave to or someone else. What’s more, giving to others makes you feel closer to those you give to as well as them feel closer to you.
Lyubomirsky shares in her book, The How of Happiness: “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
4) Giving evokes gratitude
Giving can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude, whether you are on the giving or receiving end; this gratitude is essential to happiness, health and social bonds. For example, when you do express gratitude in words and actions, you boost other people’s positivity as well as your own. Cultivating this gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness, suggests Happiness Researcher, Barbara Fredrickson.
5) Giving is contagious
When we give to others, this can create a ripple effect and encourage others to do the same consequently increasing generosity through our community. One study showed that observers of generosity encouraged them to be generous later, toward different people. As a result, each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she has not met.
So your giving is much more than just a year-end chore whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity. Giving may help you build stronger social connections and could even encourage a large number of people to give more throughout the community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process.