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The Benefits of Benevolence

The Benefits of Benevolence

It turns out people benefit just as much from the act of giving than simply being on the receiving end.

Many scientific benevolence studies have been closely monitoring and linking the brain benefits and emotional improvement in those participating in generous acts. These behaviors enhance entire communities, occupied by thoughtfully connected citizens.

The definition of giving is to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.

The article below will explore the science behind the benefits of giving and why it can benefit not only the recipients but expand into a far-reaching positive ripple effect igniting overall positive change.

What We Currently Believe

The existing theory on giving is that it’s good for those less fortunate. It increases the health and happiness of the recipient of the charitable deed. This old school of thought centers on a fear-based public opinion viewing giving as losing.

Many people believe they don’t have the economic status or time to give. People don’t know that giving is good for them. They view it as a loss instead of an overall enhancement or gain.

The current misconception is that giving away time and money directly translates into a loss.

Scientific Mythbusters 

New scientific studies are finding the positive biological and emotional benefits brought on through charitable deeds, gifts, and movements. Dubbed a “helper’s high,” scientists are now studying the feel-good endorphin release in the brain brought on by altruistic behavior.

Feel Good Endorphins 

There is a proven physiological response when people give. The reward and pleasure centers in the brain light up in the same way that they would upon receiving a gift. Oxytocin floods the body lowering stress and contributing to an overall sense of wellbeing.

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Findings at the National Institute of Health by Jorge Moll showed activated regions of pleasure, empathy, trust, and social connectedness in the brains of people who gave to charities.

Another study found giving money increased the happiness of participants as opposed to spending it on themselves (Norton, 2008). Researchers saw this take place in a study conducted with people performing consistent acts of kindness over the course of six weeks (Lyubomirsky, 2010).

Increase in Overall Health

In another comprehensive study of 40 different families from diverse classes, races and neighborhoods people choosing to be more emotionally available and generous to others were shown to be in 48% greater overall health.

The 2,000 individuals studied over the course of five years had their lifestyles and spending habits closely monitored. The findings showed much lower depressions rates among individuals who donated more than 10% of their incomes (Smith, 2009).

Volunteer Time is Free Money

Findings show the same benefits from donating to charities can be achieved through volunteer efforts. Individuals can benefit greatly by giving of their time in their neighborhood in places like early literacy initiatives reading to children, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens.

Donating time and non-monetary resources such as giving to blood banks or donating hair are all equally rewarding activities.

Studies are finding average individuals who volunteered around 5.8 hours each month would describe their existence as very happy.

On the other end of the spectrum those confessing to feelings of inadequacy and stating they are very unhappy clocked volunteer methods at around 0.6 hours per month (Davidson, Smith).

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Researchers found nine different causal mechanisms behind giving. Motivations among better social networking, and improved sense of self.

Consistency is Key

In order for people to reap the rewards of giving, their acts must be consistent. A type of generosity practice sustained over time through bodily behaviors and repeat acts can have exponential positive benefits.

Investing in overall happiness through meaningful work, relationships and benevolent acts all contribute to a happier healthier society.

Three Degrees of Altruism 

Many exciting new studies provide a fascinating insight into the science of giving. Emerging research shows when one person behaves generously that it then inspires observers to do so later toward others.

Altruism spreads by three degrees, resulting in large influential networks that can ultimately effect hundreds of people some of whom the original instigators of the good deed never even meet (Christakis, Fowler).

The Giving Conundrum 

The paradox becomes a bit chicken or the egg in that the more healthy and happy a person is the more likely they are inclined to acts of generosity and through those acts, they become happier and healthier.

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Whereas people suffering from depression, in need of acts of kindness and the least motivated toward acts of benevolence are the most likely to benefit the most from doing so for others.

If people aren’t shown kindness and generosity they are less inclined to contribute such efforts themselves and it works against the positive system.

New studies continue to increase public awareness around the direct benefits of giving causing an increase in happiness and overall health and sense of wellbeing. The giving movement continues to gain momentum contributing to an overall healthier happier environment.

REFERENCE LIST:

Christakis, Nicholas & Fowler, James. (March 23, 2010) Cooperative Behavior Cascades in Human Social Networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) vol. 107 no. 12 5334-5338

Davidson, Hilary & Smith, Christian. The Paradox of Generosity. (2014, September 1) Oxford University Press

Lyubomirsky, Sonja. Happiness for a Lifetime. (2010, July 15) Retrieved from https://youtu.be/0EJIaTFfBss

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Moll, Jorge. Findings at the National Institute of Health. (2010, December 13) Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

Norton, Michael. Five Ways Giving is Good for You (2010, December 13) Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

Smith, Christian. Notre Dame Science of Generosity Initiative. (2009, December 17) Retrieved from https://generosityresearch.nd.edu/more-about-the-initiative/

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/tpsdave-12019/ via pixabay.com

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Rebecca Smith

Copywriter, Freelancer, Short Fiction

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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