What do sex, chocolate and donating to charity have in common? They all affect the area of the brain that is responsible for fulfilling cravings for things like food and sex. But food and sex aren’t the only things that “light up” that area of the brain. It turns out donating to charity has the same effect.
And what’s more, donating to charity can also improve your health!
How to reap the emotional benefits of giving
You don’t have to be rich to donate to charities and reap positive emotional rewards. According to Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, people who donate money to charity “are happier in poor and rich countries alike. You don’t have to have a lot to experience the emotional benefits of giving.”
In order to enjoy the benefits of donating, follow these rules:
Make it tangible
Many people feel a sense of futility in the face of so much suffering in the world. But when you donate to something tangible, you’ll feel you have made a personal impact. For example, a child sponsorship charity gives a name and a face of the child you’re helping.
The act of giving makes people feel good. If you donate in smaller amounts but to more charities, you’ll have more opportunities to reap the “feel good” reward.
While there’s nothing wrong with making a donation and getting, say, a free T-shirt, the more altruistic your donation, the better you’ll feel about yourself.
It’s simple: If you want to be happier and live longer, make donating to charities a habit.
Don’t be bashful
Many of us have been taught not to brag; therefore, some people prefer to give anonymously. The truth is, people won’t think you’re being arrogant if they know you give to charity. Rather, they’ll find it admirable and feel a sort of “peer pressure” to also donate to charity.
How does donating make people healthier?
We’ve established that donating makes people happier. But healthier? Yep. According to numerous scientific studies, happiness leads to a longer life. But what’s the science behind it? Read on and find out.
For normal people—as opposed to folks who act like Charles Montgomery Burns of “The Simpsons”—stinginess brings shame, and shame is linked with higher levels of stress. Long-term stress is bad for your health. It often leads to unhealthy habits that reduce stress in the short term, like excessive drinking and smoking. Moreover, long-term stress can also lead to high blood pressure, the “silent killer.”
Studies have found a link between giving and unselfishness and having a lower risk of early death. According to researcher Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, “Our conclusion is that helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.”
Giving is better than receiving
Researchers have found that the good feeling you get from giving can motivate you to help others, compared with the feelings of receiving. And as illustrated above, giving reduces stress, which in turn improves health.
It’s simple: If you want to be happier and live longer, make donations to charities a habit.