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The Psychological Benefits of Generosity and Giving

The Psychological Benefits of Generosity and Giving

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Whether it's bringing flowers to a friend feeling under the weather or volunteering at your community soup kitchen, giving to others is a selfless act that benefits everyone involved. Did you know that generosity and giving to others can benefit your own wellbeing as much as it benefits those who receive your act of kindness? 

It’s true. Research shows that helping others is associated with some serious psychological benefits. Generosity and giving back offer a multitude of benefits for our mental health. Here are a few ways giving back can benefit you, just as much as the recipients of your generosity.

The Benefits of Giving to Others

Generous Behavior Increases Happiness

Not only does giving to others increase their happiness, it also increases our own. Studies amongst different cultures and ages have consistently found that individuals who spend money on others report higher levels of happiness than those who spend money on themselves. Researchers suggest that the reward we experience from helping others is deeply ingrained in human nature, spanning across cultural and economic status worldwide. 

Giving to Others Stimulates the Brain’s “Reward” Systems

If you’ve ever selflessly given to someone else, you’re well aware that it can make you feel really good. There’s a reason for this. Research shows that when we place the interest of others before our own, such as donating money instead of spending it on ourselves, two parts of the brain’s “reward” systems are activated. When we give, we’re stimulating the same part of the brain that lights up when we see a baby or romantic partner, as well as the brain area stimulated by money, food, or sex. Giving, as it turns out, may offer as big a reward to the giver as to the receiver. 

Giving Leads Us to Experience a “Helper’s High”

In the 1980s, researchers coined a term called the “helper’s high.” It referred to the “high” that people felt when they helped others. Similar to the “runner’s high” many experience with the rush of endorphins that release during or after a run, “helper’s high” releases dopamine in the brain, which is strongly connected to feelings of euphoria. Doing good, it seems, can make you feel great. 

Giving to Others Releases Oxytocin

Giving to others is a true boon for the brain. Research shows that when we give to others oxytocin is released in the brain. Commonly referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin plays a major role in forming bonds and trust with others. Produced in abundance by breastfeeding mothers, it’s what forms a deep bond between mothers and newborn babies. It’s also released when we cuddle or are physically intimate with a partner.  

The benefits of giving and generosity are endless, both for the giver and the recipient. Even if you think you don’t have much to give, there is truly always something we can offer others. All types of giving offer significant psychological benefits, whether it’s donating money or items to your favorite charity or helping out a stranger with a random act of kindness. Simply offering someone a smile can exponentially increase feelings of joy and happiness for both parties involved. 

Giving gives us purpose, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling life rich with feelings of gratitude and goodwill toward others. Giving and generosity are part of what it means to be human, and giving to others can considerably enhance our experience of being alive. Give freely and often; for, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “it is in giving that we receive.” 

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