The Value of Giving: Give and Get Happy

The Value of Giving: Give and Get Happy

Written by HHF Board Member, Caroline Speirs

Caroline is an experienced online content strategist who is based in Montreal. Caroline provides strategic guidance and helps develop the content strategy for our online fundraising initiatives. She also sits on the board of directors actively involved in raising funds and  is a strong advocate for our cause. 

 Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? Some people look for happiness in our work, relationships or from our community. Others think that if our situation were different – more money, more time, a change of location – life might be better. Maybe if we just had more money we could buy happiness by solving problems or making our wildest dreams come true. But in reality, lottery winners often report not being any happier several years after winning the lottery; they may have more money but they often suffer from the same problems as before their big win. It’s rare that external factors make people any happier. Happiness comes from the inside; we need to create it within ourselves.

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What if I told you about a way to make others happy and increase your own happiness at the same time? The secret? Giving to others.

A number of recent studies have found that when people help others they get a boost of happiness themselves. Using an fMRI, Dr. Jordan Grafman at the U.S. NIH found that when people made the decision to give money to what they felt was a worthy organization, parts of the Pleasure Centre in the midbrain lit up. Anyone who has done a good deed knows about this feel-good sensation.

 

Psychologists have probed deeper to identify some common emotions that people experience after charitable giving:
a good feeling derived from “doing the right thing”
a pleasurable feeling of “moral satisfaction”
the desire to view oneself as compassionate and kind
a “warm-glow”

Why would giving money away make us feel good, especially when we sometimes feel we don’t have enough ourselves? Is this feeling produced by traits that many of us share such as altruism and empathy? Does it have to do with recognizing we share a common humanity? No matter the cause, it is true that helping others can make you feel great inside. Not to mention how good the recipients feel.

A gift from one person to another is more than just a transfer of goods or money. Another benefit of helping others is that you are validating and giving hope to that person or group, especially when they are impoverished. Research shows that many poor recipients of donations of much-needed supplies such as water, food and shelter end up showing fewer signs of stress, anxiety and depression than before they received assistance. A University of San Francisco study of 10,000 child sponsorships found that sponsored children were significantly more likely to finish high school and college and eventually managed to land more professional jobs. They found that the gifts of educational support did more than just educate the children, they also raised their individual aspirations and self-esteem. The study discovered that “the sponsored children had greater expectations for themselves, more self-confidence, and less hopelessness.” That’s a gift that keeps on giving: it’s planting a seed of happiness in fertile soil and watching it bloom.

The value of giving is something that can be measured, with scientific research, but also with a smile and a feeling of deep satisfaction. The happy feelings it produces are infectious. Give as much as you can and spread that happiness around!

To find out how you can give to the Hanne Howard Fund learn more here.

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Footnotes

1. « Hard-Wired for Giving » by Elizabeth Svoboda Wall Street Journal, updated Aug. 31, 2013 http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324009304579041231971683854

2. « Charitable Giving Guide: Maximize Both Happiness and Impact” by Michal Ann Strahilevitz Psychology Today December 17, 2012
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-money-and-your-heart/201212/charitable-giving-guide-maximize-both-happiness-and-impact

3. A Path Appears : Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Alfred A Knopf, 2014

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