It’s basically a given in that when you give back to others, the party on the receiving end of this interaction is most definitely benefiting from your charity. But are you aware of the many ways that giving to others helps you in return? Because it’s pretty stellar! Here are just four ways spreading some random acts of kindness will benefit you in the long run:
1. Keeping that stress at bay: Scientific American reported on the findings of a study conducted by social psychologist Liz Dunn which looked at cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, in response to giving away money as opposed to choosing to keep more money for yourself. What the study found was that the more money people chose to give away, the greater the gratification they derived from doing so, and the lower their cortisol levels were, meaning they were less stressed!
2. A source of happiness: Biologically, the act of giving can produce a “glowing effect,” stimulating areas of the brain linked to satisfaction. There is evidence that when engaging in charitable behaviors, our brains exude the chemicals of serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical). And when researchers from the National Institutes of Health looked at the fMRIs of participants who gave back to various charities, they found that giving arouses the mesolimbic pathway, the reward center in the brain, releasing endorphins and resulting in what has come to be known as the “helper’s high.”
3. Kissing depression goodbye: Likely the result of the positive feelings acquired from the helper’s high, giving may also lessen your risk of depression and symptoms associated with sadness or fatigue. One study of adults found that those who helped those they cared for experienced grander feelings of control over their lives. This feeling, as a result, reduced the probability that they would go on to undergo depressive symptoms. Another study on those coping with grief also found that those who provided useful support to others (such as money, transportation or help with chores) recovered more quickly from the symptoms of their grief.
4. A full proof self-esteem booster: Additionally, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that perhaps the best means of boosting self-esteem involves temporarily forgetting about oneself and instead thinking of others. According to University of Michigan psychologists, Jennifer Crocker and Amy Canevello, “Nothing makes you more proud of yourself than knowing that you are making a positive difference in the lives of other people.” When you act upon the ways in which you can leave a positive impact on others, your self-confidence remains uplifted. What’s more, you can turn back to these experiences when you are in a negative mood to brighten up your day, knowing what you did was significant for someone else.
So now that you know, get out there and spread some good!
Written by: Elizabeth Galvan, Scripps Peer Health Educator
Chan, A. L. (2013, December 01). 7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/generosity-health_n_4323727.html
Roberts, E. (2017, September 03). Why Giving Back Increases Your Self-Esteem. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2012/11/why-giving-back-increases-your-self-esteem/
The Health Benefits of Giving. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-giving