Giving Back: Why Giving Is a Great Way to Receive

When you were a kid, hearing the saying, “It is better to give than to receive” probably didn’t seem like it could really be true. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” and Buddha is well known for espousing generosity. The concept was also outlined centuries ago in the Bible, but it’s all a little bit counterintuitive. It’s better to get stuff, right? As you matured, you started to see how that might be right—that if you gave something to someone else who needed it, you could also benefit.

It’s Good for You, Too

Now studies are proving that volunteering and donating money and materials are not just the right things to do but can actually help the person who is doing the giving. In fact, being generous can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Improving your health
  • Making you happier
  • Helping you experience less depression
  • Giving you a sense of calm with overall better health
  • Increasing your self-esteem

eOmega.org points out that giving sometimes can be like a runner’s high, a term coined for that feel-good sensation that rushes through your body after a run. They use the term helper’s high to describe what happens to your body and brain when you are kind to another person or give to them in some way.[1]

Being more altruistic also makes people happier, according to a 2010 Harvard Business School survey of more than 136 countries. The researchers found that people who gave generously to charitable organizations were the happiest overall.

Lots of People Give

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 62.8 million people volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014. That’s 25.3% of the nation’s civilian population age 16 and older.[2] CharityNavigator.org reports that people gave more the $335 billion in 2013 to charitable organizations.[3]

“A mountain of research confirms the psychological and physical benefits of giving back,” writes Carlin Flora for Psychology Today. “Teens who volunteer are healthier than those who don’t, even 60 years later, and generous actions are associated with less mortality and depression, even if you start late in life.[4]

Research has also shown that donors feel happiest “if they give to a charity via a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.”[5]

Where to Start

Stephen Post, coauthor of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, suggests these ways to improve your mood and your health by acting altruistically:

  • Start in Your Own Backyard – Simply being more caring and more helpful to your family members and friends will strengthen your giving muscles and make you feel great.
  • Experiment With Ways of Giving – Sending a check to a charity or volunteering at a local organization are obvious ways to be angelic. Listening carefully, forgiving those who have hurt you and even going out of your way to make a suffering person laugh are also acts of altruism. Give in a way that suits your personality and it won’t feel like work.
  • Use the Power of Intention – Each morning visualize yourself acting generously and compassionately with those you come in contact with like your family, coworkers and anyone else you may see.

You may be helping others just for the joy of it or out of a sense of obligation, but remember that you will also benefit. Helping others might include the follow benefits:

  • Remind that you that you’re relatively lucky
  • Make you feel connected to others
  • Help you feel needed and effective
  • Take your mind off your own worries for a while
  • Make you feel generous
  • Add a sense of purpose and meaning to your life[7]

How You Can Help

You can volunteer in big ways by going on foreign mission trips and orchestrating major events, but don’t forget that you can also help every day in small ways. You can read to a group of children, help a frazzled parent by offering to run errands or stay with her child while she goes or just say a kind word to a stranger or family member. You might see a need that a donation would fix and choose to help with that. The more you give, the more you will find that your own thoughts and outlook will be improved. Ghandi, Buddha, the Bible and now even science can’t all be wrong.

How We Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about this concept of helping others to help yourself, call our admissions coordinators who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at our toll-free helpline. They can help you get connected. Please call today.


 

[1] “Why Giving Makes Us Feel Good,” Omega, July 25, 2014, www.eomega.org/article/why-giving-makes-us-feel-good

[2] “Why This Counts: Volunteering in the United States,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 3, 2015, http://beta.bls.gov/labs/blogs/2015/03/03/why-this-counts-volunteering-in-the-united-states/

[3]  Giving Statistics, Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42#.VpMhVRyIvF9

[4] “Field Guide to the Do-Gooder: Earth Angels,” by Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, last reviewed Nov. 20, 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200801/field-guide-the-do-gooder-earth-angels

[5] “How Giving Makes Us Happy,” by Therese J. Borchard, PsychCentral.com, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/12/22/how-giving-makes-us-happy/

[6] Flora, supra note 4.

[7] “Help Others,” Mental Health America, www.mentalhealthamerica.net/help-others

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