What We Get When We Give

More happiness, less stress, better relationships.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Latest research shows that living generously – that is, developing a consistent practice of donating your time, talents, and treasures—may reap more rewards for the giver than the receiver.

We all can relate to the “warm glow” sensation--that feeling of satisfaction, or goodness, or (maybe there isn’t a word in the English language for it) that befalls us when we’ve done something generous for another person.

We may understand intuitively that being generous makes us happier, but you can take heart in knowing that this link has been studied and confirmed by dozens of researchers over the past several decades.

In 2018, the Greater Good Science Center out of the University of California at Berkeley prepared a white paper entitled “The Science of Generosity” written by Summer Allen, Ph. D.  Dr. Allen cites over 300 different studies and meta-studies on generosity and provides a summary report that examines roots of human generosity, the consequences of generosity, and the individual, social and cultural factors that influence generosity.     

I zoomed in to the section that describes the consequences of generosity, and I liked what I found:

1) Acts of generosity decrease stress.  Dr. Allen cited evidence that “helping others may act as a stress-relieving buffer—which may, in turn, delay severe health problems and death.” People who were assigned to engage in generous acts toward specific others were found to generate less of something called the CTRA gene, which is a gene that links negative psychological and social events with negative health outcomes. So, less CTRA gene means your body is experiencing less stress! Maybe that “warm glow” is us healing ourselves from the inside out?  

2) Generosity makes us happier.  The most compelling link that was confirmed in the report was that between generosity and happiness. Dr. Allen asserts, “While popular culture may imply that happiness comes from focusing on yourself, research suggest the opposite: Being generous can make you happier.” Studies have shown that everything from volunteering your time to help others, donating money (especially when you understand the positive impact your dollars are making, caring for loved ones, and performing small acts of kindness throughout your day improves one’s sense of well-being.

3) Generosity leads to better relationships. Dr. Allen cites several studies that confirm that acting generously improves romantic relationships, friendships, and general interactions with others.  Imagine this scenario: Your friend does not respond to your email because of technology problems. Instead of assuming it is because you are not a priority and acting in a tit-for-tat fashion, act a bit more generously than that person’s last action.

“Adding a small generosity buffer and giving someone the benefit of the doubt may lead to more cooperation and stronger relationships.”

So, go forth in life with more generosity and you may find you are the one who is really receiving the most!  To learn more about how CFNCW may be able to help you build on your generosity and happiness check out our new website at www.cfncw.org. 

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