Benefits of Giving

Little girl holding heart

For it is in giving that we receive.

Francis of Assisi

One of the many lessons that we want to teach our kids is the lesson of giving to others. Having just had a season where the focus has been on giving it seems appropriate to open this series on the topic of the benefits of giving.  Truly, it is not just the recipients that benefit from giving. The giver also benefits as well as each of our communities. Similar benefits come from donating to charities, volunteering your time, or giving a gift.

Giving makes you happy!

Research has shown that when giving money to someone else rather than spending it on yourself actually lifts happiness more than if it had been spent on you. Our biology even reflects the good feelings according brain studies. When giving to charities, the regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust are activated creating a “warm glow” effect. It is also believed that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, creating the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

Apply it to your family – Whether your family decides to give time, money or objects there are so many ways to give. When it comes time to make a family donation to charity involve your children in the process of making the decision where the money will go. If your children decide that they would like to share a portion of their allowance encourage that giving spirit.

Giving is good for your health!

Better health has been linked to generosity by a wide range of research. This also include elders and people who are sick. One reason that the research has demonstrated is that giving helps decrease stress. Since stress is linked to a variety of health problems a reduction in stress helps your health! Giving affects your health and mental health in other ways including: lowering blood pressure, increasing self-esteem, and lessening depression.

Apply it to your family – Between jobs, school, and after school activities stress is a likely possible piece that may sneak into your family life. So schedule out some time on your family calendar for everyone to engage in a giving opportunity. During the activity, everyone’s mind is focused on the task at hand and not thinking about the other things going on which helps as a stress reduction. As an added bonus, this is a great opportunity for family bonding time.

Giving promotes cooperation and social connection!

“You get back what you give,” is a common phrase that many people have probably heard and research now backs that statement. When you give to others the chances of your generosity being reward down the line is increased. The reward may be by the person you gave to or by someone else. Through these exchanges a sense of trust and cooperation is strengthened between people which is important to good mental and physical health. On top of all this already, when giving to others they feel closer to you and you feel closer to them.

Apply it to your family -Take the time to highlight how feelings and thoughts may change between family members or other people after a giving activity has taken place. By taking the time to check-in and see how each person feels you are not only practicing emotional awareness but also looking how each person’s action impact others.

Giving evokes gratitude!

As gratitude is an important part of happiness, health, and social bonds, giving or receiving gifts elicits feelings of gratitude.

Apply it to your family – Check in with your child after he or she gives a gift and talk about gratitude and being thankful. In that spirit maybe encourage your child to write a thank you note or help your child call the person to say thank you.

Giving is contagious!

There are the immediate effects of giving to the recipient, but there is also a ripple effect through the community. When one person is generous, it inspires observes to act generously at a later time with different people. One study found that altruism could actually be spread by three degrees! Once again biology reflects how generosity can ripple. A release of oxytocin has been linked to giving. Oxytocin is a hormone that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. Studies conducted at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously in addition to feeling more empathetic towards others.

Apply it to your family – A fun activity that has been associated with random acts of kindness can be used here as well. When anyone in the family gives or does something else for someone, the person who does the giving passes on the a slip of a paper that says, “You have been gifted a random act of kindness.” These pieces of paper can stay within the family or extend into your community. Once a person has received one then it is their job to pass it on to another person and so on!

With benefits all around, enjoy your time giving and keep giving!

Resources and References:
Greater Good in Actions by Berkley Univeristy – 5 Ways Giving Is Good for You
Cleveland Clinic – Why Giving is Good for Your Health
Fox News Health – The health benefits of giving
PsychCentral – How Giving Makes Us Happy

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