This time of year, most of us are giving to church, charity, friends and family. It just feels good to bless others around the holidays.
But did you know there’s more to generosity than that warm, fuzzy feeling you get in your heart? Researchers have been exploring how generosity affects our health for years. And, as it turns out, philanthropy comes with a lot of perks.
Here are a few of the benefits generous people get to experience over the course of their lifetime.
1. Generosity is good for your brain.
Have you ever seen someone do something nice for someone else? Next time that happens, pay attention to the person who is doing the giving. They light up! That reaction is nicknamed "giver’s glow." According to researchers at Stony Brook University, when we’re generous our brains release several chemicals that give us a sense of joy and peace. So, it really is better to give than to receive.
2. Generosity makes you—and those around you—happier.
Generous people are fun to be around, aren’t they? They aren’t just generous with their checkbooks—they’re also generous with their time, their talents, and their words. They encourage others and inspire them to be better than before. They make their friends feel braver, stronger and smarter. And more than that: Their generosity is contagious. Generosity makes us feel good; and when we feel good, we’re better at making those around us feel good, too.
3. Generosity can help you live longer.
It might surprise you to find out that generous people live longer than people who don’t give. But the research shows that generosity lowers your stress levels. That’s a big deal since stress is a known risk factor for a lot of chronic diseases. For example, a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who volunteer around four hours per week are 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who don’t volunteer.
4. Generosity counters depression.
Since depression affects millions of Americans today, this is an important discovery. Researchers with Project MATCH, a comprehensive alcoholism treatment trial, actually found that people in Alcoholics Anonymous double their chances of success when they help others. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we focus on others, we learn more about ourselves. That same idea is being used to help people suffering from depression and other disorders.
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These studies are just the tip of the iceberg. Generosity comes with so many advantages—not only to those on the receiving end, but to those doing the giving too. You can think of it like a circle. If we give, we benefit others, which circles back around and benefits us.
When we focus on others, we learn more about ourselves.
So feel good about working that extra giving into your Christmas budget. Pay for someone’s meal. Offer words of encouragement to someone who seems to be having a hard time around the holidays. Bake some extra cookies to give away. As long as your heart’s in the right place, you’ll get a lot out of giving.