If you’ve ever been on the giving end of benevolence, then you know the good, warm feeling you get inside of you when you lend a hand to those in need. But what about giving is it that makes us feel this way? Why does helping other paradoxically make ourselves feel better?
- There’s a physiological response in our bodies to giving.
- While it absolutely seems to be a paradox, when we give to others, the pleasure centers and reward areas of our brains light up, but get this — our brains light up the same way they would if we were the receiver of the gift, not the one giving it. A 2008 study from Harvard Business School found that giving money to others lifted the levels of happiness of participants more than it did if they spent the money on themselves. This is because your body produces boosts of endorphins during acts of generosity that make us feel good about ourselves and others, the same kind of feeling describes as a “runner’s high.”
- Giving is good for your health.
- Studies have shown that helping others has numerous positive effects on your body, most notably in the brain and the heart. Giving helps us physically by lowering our blood pressure (especially when the volunteer is elderly) and stress levels through providing a sense of appreciation and meaning in our lives. Giving is also good for your mental health, and has been linked to decreasing depression in volunteers.
- We feel better about ourselves when we volunteer.
- Giving to others in any form has been shown to increase not only the volunteer’s self-esteem, but also their overall satisfaction in life. People who volunteer experience a boost in mood, feel physically healthier, and feel less stressed out overall. Giving to others has been shown to promote gratitude in our own lives by helping us “count our blessings” and explore how much in our lives we truly have to be thankful for. When you feel as though you have so little, seeing how much the little you have can do in the life of someone who has even less, it puts things into perspective.
- We help ourselves by helping others.
- There’s an old saying that goes “you can’t help someone up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.” In the process of giving, we gain from others as much as they gain from us, especially for causes that hit close to home. If you were victimized by something in your life and then you go on to become an advocate for those affected, you’re helping yourself through the battle as much as you’re helping others and empowering them to give themselves a different outcome.