Human beings are social creatures. We talk to each other, play with each other and even assist each other. One of the most important and admired activities to perform today is charity. It is the activity of giving to others support, in any of its forms. By taking items which are valuable to you and giving them to the less fortunate or needy, you engage in charity. Another valued trait is generosity. This is where you share or give good things to other people freely and in abundance. Both of these traits are encouraged because they make the society a better place. In addition to that, they have been observed to make us feel happier and healthier too. Scientific studies have successfully proven that giving increases our wellbeing.
The origin of the warm glow
Whenever we give to charity, our brains react in the same way they would if we were eating some chocolate. By using MRI technology, scientists were able to observe the human brain when a person performs some charitable actions. They observed that the mid-brain lights up as a result of giving to the needy. This part of the brain is the one that allows us to feel pleasure when we consume chocolate for example. Whenever you are engaged in a giving situation, your body releases endorphins which react with opiate receptors in the mid-brain. This leads to a feeling of euphoria. In addition to that, the production of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin in the body is triggered. This causes us to feel happy and experience a positive attitude. This feeling is sometimes referred to as the "warm glow" experienced after giving to charity or by being generous.
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Be happier by being more generous
We have already discovered that being more generous can give you a dose of feel good hormones. They will make you experience pleasure in the short term. However, does giving actually make you happier in the long term? As a matter of fact, it does. Researchers Dunn, Aknin, Akin and Norton performed a study to find out if there is a link between generosity and a happier life. They found that the people who dedicate a larger proportion of their money to generous prosocial activities more than personal spending were actually happier than those who spent more on themselves and less on others. The researchers arrived at this conclusion after they arranged an experiment in the real world. Two groups of people were instructed to spend a fixed amount of money on themselves while two other groups were required to spend money on others. After the experiment was concluded, the groups which spent money on other people reported feeling happier than the group that spent money on themselves. Moreover, the researchers also found that it does not matter if you spend a large amount or a small one on others. The gesture of caring about other people and doing something to improve their quality of life is the source of happiness. Therefore, we can get happier today by being more generous with those around us who have little or none.
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Time and emotion are also some other resources you can generously give
There are other things that you can give away except your money or possessions. You can give your time to charity by volunteering. Moreover, you can give your emotion by availing yourself and being hospitable to the ones who you love or the less fortunate. By giving your time or emotion away, you can become happier. According to research performed by sociologists Hilary Davidson and Christian Smith, the Americans who feel that they are very happy in their lives volunteer an average of 5.8 hours every month. On the other hand, Americans who describe themselves as being unhappy only volunteer 0.6 hours to charity. In addition to that, the researchers found that people who are more giving in their relationships with their partners or the less fortunate experience better health than those who are not. They have a 48% chance of being in good health while those who are not emotionally generous have a 31% chance of good health. The researchers performed the study and published it in The Paradox of Generosity. To ensure accuracy, they analyzed the lives of 2,000 people over a period of 5 years. Therefore, you can experience more happiness and better health by giving your time and emotion to a charitable cause.
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Generosity is part of human nature
A group of psychologists from the University of California-Santa Barbara conducted a study to ascertain if generosity is part of human nature. By collecting a group of people and giving them the choice to spend on themselves or donate to charity, they observed their behavior to help in identifying and measuring generosity. To the surprise of the psychologists, all the participants in the study decided to make donations anonymously giving away up to 40% of the money they could have spent on themselves. In addition to that, they found interesting neural activity that emerged due to the generous gestures of the test individuals.There was a difference in the brain activity when giving or receiving.
Normally, when we receive some reward of a monetary nature, the mesolimbic reward mechanism in our brains is activated. This system is made up of the ventral and dorsal striatums as well as the ventral tegmental area. By analyzing the subjects in the test, the psychologists found that giving to charity activates this system even more than receiving money. In addition to that, the activation extended to the subgenual section of the brain. This is the one which is associated with interpersonal attachment. This latter section had actually been silent in the subjects when they received the money. Thanks to this observation, the psychologists determined that being a giver is more fulfilling than being a receiver. Thanks to this pleasurable effect of giving, being generous is deeply embedded in our systems. It is actually part of human nature.
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The Important Take Away
Scientific studies have confirmed that giving to charity and being more generous actually make you happier. Various studies have been conducted and found this to be true. Some of them are indicated above. Take the time to share some of your possessions, money, time or affection with someone today. It is the gift that gives back every time.