It is true; research has proven “it is better to give than to receive”. Giving is good for our hearts and our overall physical health. Stephen G. Post, PhD, a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine sites two large studies, which found that older adults who volunteered reaped benefits in their health and well being. Those who volunteered were living longer than non-volunteers. Another large study found a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot — a greater effect than exercising four times a week.
According to an article on WebMd.com, brain studies show this profound state of joy and delight that comes from giving to others. Scrooge is a good example, says Post. “He comes alive because of his benevolent affections and emotions. What’s really happening is that he’s tapping into the whole neurology, endocrinology, and immunology of generosity.
In another recent study referenced on dailygood.org, participants were given $10 and asked to decide how much of it to share with someone else. Those who gave more money away reported higher levels of happiness- both in hormone levels and questionnaire results. “The moral of the story is that the economic decisions we make can have downstream health consequences,” concludes study co-author Lara Aknin. Maybe money can buy happiness after all, if it’s given away.
Interestingly, “Humans have evolved to be caring and helpful to those around us, largely to ensure our survival,” says Stephen G. Post, PhD. “In Darwin’s Descent of Man, he mentions survival of the fittest only twice. He mentions benevolence 99 times.” There are at least 5 ways giving is good for us—by having a positive effect on our health; making us feel happy and fulfilled; promoting cooperation and social connection; evoking gratitude; and by showing us that giving is contagious. Getting engaged in the greater good is not only good for our health but also for the strength in the fabric of our society. Believe it or not, altruism is in our DNA because it is essential to our survival as a species.
So as we prepare ourselves for the frenzy of gift given, remember it is actually good for our health. Spending money or volunteering at a local charity makes a difference. And if we build generosity and gift giving into our lives all year long, we might just live longer and happier lives. Guess I better go bake another loaf of poppy seed bread to give to my new next-door neighbors!
Happy Healthy Holidays!