“Making money is a happiness; making other people happy is a super-happiness” — Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus
We all deserve to pursue happiness, in small ways on a daily basis and through larger, well thought-out strategies that involve something larger than ourselves. Studies carried out over the past decade have revealed that despite younger generations turning away from organized religions at a faster rate than their parents did, the search for spirituality is strong. Modern spirituality is centered on connection – the idea that the life force that runs through all sentient things can best be served when we work on qualities such as empathy and giving.
How Can Giving Promote Better Health?
A study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology in 2014 found that giving to others reduces stress and strengthens the immune system. Other studies reviewed by Harvard academics have shown that happier people give more. Moreover, the relationship between these two factors is cyclical. Still other studies point to the fact that helping others can relieve anxiety and depression. Therefore, cognitive behavioral therapy for these conditions often involves the suggestion of acts of giving to those in need.
Giving Is Ageless
The effect is similar on children and adults alike. In one fascinating study, second and third grade children were placed into positive or negative mood conditions by asking them to recall relevant memories. They were then given candy and allowed to give money to other children if they wished. The findings showed that both happy and sad children ate more candy than children in a control group. However, only the happy kids gave money away to their peers.
MRI scans have shown that in adults, giving money to charity activates areas in the brain associated with rewards. Giving in all its respects – through charity, volunteering and the like, instills life satisfaction. The good news it that these beneficial effects can last for weeks after the giving act takes place.
Choosing A Way to Give
The ‘pay it forward’ movement epitomizes the extent to which modern day human beings can make a big difference by helping out a cause that means something to them, to the extent to which they feel comfortable doing so. As charitable investor and Hollywood producer Elliott Broidy notes, it is important to have the freedom to pick groups you feel most need support. On Broidy’s Facebook Page he often speaks about Hounds for Heroes, an organization providing service animals to wounded veterans. Other Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, meanwhile, have made substantial gifts to environmental initiatives. Still others have founded foundations. Take Lady Gaga, whose Born This Way Foundation actively campaigns for pro-tolerance and peace issues.
Giving Is On The Rise
In 2017, total charitable donations on the US arose to a whopping $390.05 billion. The rise in the total was caused by individuals, who gave 4% more. Some of the largest jumps in giving went to the environment, animals, culture, humanities, international affairs, and health. Today, people are choosing to support established charity projects as well as crowdfunded campaigns.
No human being is an island; by giving to others, we help make a difference but also improve our health, reduce our stress levels, and enjoy greater overall happiness. If one thing is clear about giving, it is that it does not have to involve money. Rather, it can involve time spent on fundraising, volunteering, or even being there for someone in need. What is your definition of giving and are you ready to get the ball rolling?