Giving back is key to happiness. Science is now confirming that giving to charity and being generous can dramatically improve your state of mind. When you take the time to share some of your possessions, money, time, or affection, the gift will be reflected back to you in the form of happiness.
Giving to Others Is Like Eating Chocolate
Charity is undoubtedly one of the most essential and admired activities that we can perform for each other. MRI technology allows scientists to observe the human brain when a person performs a charitable act. When you give back, your brain reacts in the same manner as if you were eating chocolate. For example, the mid-brain, which enables us to feel pleasure when eating chocolate, lights up when a person gives to the needy. In addition, your body releases endorphins which react with opiate receptors leading to a feeling of euphoria. As if that’s not enough, the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin is triggered, causing feelings of happiness.
Happiness for the Long Term
When you give back, your generosity can help you be happy for the long term. This study establishes a link between generosity and happiness. The results suggest that people who dedicate a more significant portion of their money to prosocial activities instead of personal spending are happier than those who spend more money on themselves. The research team states that the amount of money doesn’t matter; it’s the act of giving that promotes happiness. Caring for and helping others is a major source of joy.
Money Is Not the Only Resource You Can Give
Giving back is not limited to money or possessions. Through volunteer work, you can give your time as a resource. In addition, you can provide emotional energy by being hospitable to those less fortunate than yourself. Research suggests that giving time or emotion away can help you become a happier person. For example, Americans who volunteer an average of 5.8 hours every month are more satisfied than those who volunteer 0.6 hours to charity. In addition, people who are giving in relationships experience better health. So, if you want to experience a greater degree of happiness in your life, give your time and emotion to a charitable cause.
Giving and Human Nature
One study sought to determine if generosity is part of human nature. The research team provided a group of people with the option to spend money on themselves or donate it to charity. The welcome surprise was that all participants decided to donate anonymously instead of spending the money on themselves. In addition, the researchers observed a change in neural activity when giving or receiving. When we receive a monetary reward, the mesolimbic system is activated. Researchers found that by giving to charity, the system activates more than when receiving money. Thus, being a giver is more satisfying than being a receiver.
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