Have you ever been so excited to give someone a gift, that you just couldn’t wait for the occasion to arrive? Isn’t it sometimes even a better feeling than when you receive something?
I know this happens to me. When I find that perfect something for a person I love, I almost feeling giddy with anticipation. I can honestly say that many times, I feel more positive emotions when giving to others, than when I do receiving a gift.
Sometimes it is about giving a tangible item. Other times, giving can come in many forms: a kind word, a good deed, an energetic gesture, a thought of lovingkindness, sharing an experience, giving your undivided attention to another, donating your time, providing pro bono work, volunteering, contributing financially to a worthy cause. This list really could go on and on…
When we are giving, not only are we spreading joy, but with the ripple effect that gets created, it’s unknown just how many people you can reach with your generosity. But it doesn’t just end there; studies show that giving has many surprising benefits. When being altruistic, we actually can become healthier, live longer, have higher self esteem, lower stress levels, have stronger social bonds, and can experience a decrease in depression.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, in 2008, performed a study that showed when giving money to others, the participants had an increase in happiness even more than when they spent the money on themselves, which was in fact the opposite of what was predicted! In 2006 at the National Institute of Health, Jorge Moll discovered that when donating to charities, the part of the brain linked with pleasure, trust and social connection gets activated. This creates what is considered to be a “warm glow” effect, and what scientists call a “helper’s high.” A study at University at California Berkeley found that elderly who volunteered had a 44% lower chance of dying in 5 years than those who didn’t volunteer.
And our relationships get stronger as a result as well. When we are giving, it generates interdependence and strengthens connections. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
So, what are you waiting for? Make giving a habit. There is no need to wait for a holiday or a birthday to give to others, or a natural disaster to help out your community around you. Find new and creative ways that you can give on a regular basis. And then notice how you feel…I promise, you’ll feel great!