When was the last time you did something good for yourself – by helping someone else? Sound interesting? Those selfishly happy feelings you get from helping others are real. Giving evokes gratitude and gratitude feels great.

Volunteering your time and money to others is not a new concept, but those warm fuzzies you get from altruistic actions can be more beneficial than you might think. Spending your time, money and efforts on others can come in the form of charitable donations, volunteering or just giving a hand to someone in need.

Giving makes us much happier than receiving, and by giving to others we are being both selfish and selfless. Knowing that you have made a tangible difference in someone else’s life, is one of the most fulfilling feelings.

You might be surprised to hear that volunteering and giving can provide both immediate and long-term benefits. The emotional reward of enriching another’s life is a powerful one. When supporting others, the pleasure systems in our brain activate these positive feelings; and when you give to others voluntarily, you experience more brain activation - so don’t wait to be asked, just do!

The mere knowledge that you’ve acted to improve the life of someone else is enough to boost your own self-esteem and purpose, and these good feelings reflect in our biology. A 2006 study conducted at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust are activated. Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviours release endorphins in the brain, producing happy, positive feelings – known as the “helper’s high”.

When donating is done over extended periods, the benefits have been shown to be more than just an emotional boost. These effects can actively reduce exposure to stress hormones and also strengthen immunity.

You’ll be happy to hear you can reap the benefits by giving small too. When it comes to kindness – size doesn’t matter. By focusing on why you’re providing, rather than the amount, your attention becomes placed on making others feel better and not worrying about yourself which strengthens the psychological reward.

Harvard Business School conducted studies around giving and the effects of happiness of those people who give. Professor Michael Norton found that regardless of income, those who spent money on others were decidedly happier than those who spent money on themselves (even with participants predicting that spending on themselves would make them more comfortable).

If you feel inspired to give to others, nowhere is too small to start. Here are some simple ideas for how you could donate to others, and consequently, make your own day a bit brighter.

  • Set up a fundraiser in your community
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Donate blood
  • Give a treat to a friend in need
  • Clean out your closet and donate your clothes to a charity shop

Next time you’re looking for an emotional pick-me-up, you might want to try volunteering or donating. They say money can’t buy happiness - unless you spend it on someone else!


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