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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 June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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