With the holiday season around the corner people gear up to purchase the latest gadgets for friends, family and clients. While we totally support buying our loved ones something they’d absolutely adore (hey – we ARE featuring some great products in our Holiday Gift Guide), the conversations we have about what gifts to give and receive has increasingly included non-tangible, service based presents. Regardless if you decide to hand make or purchase a gift, volunteer your time or service for someone, or give to charity, there are many benefits to giving.
Here are 5 ways that giving is good for you and the community:
- Giving makes us feel happy
A brain imaging study by the National Institute of Health shows the brain pleasure centers are activated when we give something as when we receive it. Giving activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
- Giving is good for our health
According to the 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey of 4,500 American adults, forty-one percent of Americans volunteered an average of 100 hours a year. Of those who volunteered, 68 percent reported that it made them feel physically healthier; 89 percent that it had improved their sense of well-being and 73 percent that it lowered their stress levels.
- Giving reinforces a sense of community
Studies conducted by Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School and found that spending money on others or giving money to charity leads to the greatest happiness boost when giving fosters social connection. The overarching conclusion is that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.
- Giving reinforces feelings of gratitude
Studies have shown that people who regularly practice feeling thankful have a leg up when it comes to their health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in this growing field, termed “positive psychology.” His research has found that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits.
- Giving causes a ripple effect
Research by Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia suggests that seeing someone helping another person creates a state of “elevation.” Haidt’s data suggests that it may be this elevation that then inspires us to help others — and it may just be the force behind a chain reaction of giving. Social scientists James Fowler of UC San Diego and Nicolas Christakis of Harvard demonstrated that helping is contagious — acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness.
In conclusion, whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, take note of how much pleasure giving provides you. Who knows, you may end up building stronger social connections and even kick starting a ripple of generosity through your community. It’s a win-win situation!