Volunteering time and energy to organizations, as well as giving donations towards charities and non-profits, have their obvious benefits. Selflessness, doing right by others, beefing up the resume are the obvious benefits, but what about the others? The ones that aren’t so obvious.
Numerous studies have found that acts of charity actually has positive mental and physical impacts on those who do so, no matter their age or circumstance. Physically known to lower the risk of dementia, reduce cardiovascular risk, and lower blood pressure, generosity has also been found to lead to less depression and anxiety as well as increase overall happiness.
There is a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, or the reward pathway. When people commit, or even think about small acts of kindness and generosity, they activate this part of the brain, which is also responsible for managing feelings of gratification. Behaving selflessly actually causes our bodies to release our “happiness chemicals” like dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin.
While the thought of giving ourselves things sounds a bit more appealing than giving to others, it won’t lead to long-term happiness. “If you are a recipient of a good deed, you may have momentary happiness, but your long-term happiness is higher if you are the giver,” said Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University.
Ariely believes the increase in happiness derives from the innate satisfaction and positive reinforcement that following rules and taking credit for doing something good brings us. He also notes that the way we give is an important factor.
“If you give directly from a paycheck, we don’t pay attention to it. It’s the way we give and how we give that makes us happy. The key is to give deliberately and thoughtfully, so that other people can benefit from it,” said Ariely.
Check back soon for “The Goodness of Generosity–Part 2”! Thanks!