We all know the excitement of giving gifts for Christmas or birthdays — the warm fuzzy feeling associated with donating to our favorite charities, the pleasure derived from helping in community clean-ups, the uplifting thoughts that come from helping out a friend, neighbor or family member, or the positive sentiments that stem from volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen.

Many philosophers, spiritual leaders and philanthropists have highlighted the positive aspects of giving. Gandhi said, “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” Maya Angelou’s take on giving was, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” Mother Teresa observed, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.“ Noted Doctor of philosophy, Joan Marques, declared, “It’s easier to take than to give. It’s nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.”

“Forbes” magazine’s recent study found that a side effect of the pandemic, in 2020, was that people who found themselves with extra stimulus money were moved to give to those less fortunate. There was a 10% increase in private donations to the top 100 charities, considering that giving is not just a noble enterprise, but a way of spreading joy and happiness. “Psychology Today” noted that crowdfunding like GoFundMe and Kickstarter generate $17 billion annually in the US and people aren’t just giving financially, 63 million volunteered over 8 billion hours of their time in 2018!

So, what is the drive behind the instinct to give? According to the Cleveland Clinic, acts of altruism are “connected to positive physical and mental effects,” that include “lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem,  less incidence of depression, lower stress levels, and even longer life and greater happiness.” In a Johns Hopkins study, researchers found that people who supported others socially and economically had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t! 

In a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health researchers found that “giving stimulated the mesolimbic pathway, known as the reward center of the brain.” Giving activates the parts of the brain related to pleasure and trust and we then secrete important feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, resulting in a physical and emotional reaction often referred to as the “helper’s high!”

Studies have shown that activities such as volunteering, donating, or raising money for charities provide benefits including: lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress levels, and even longer life and greater happiness and satisfaction! 

So, yes, be of service to others, help your fellow man, contribute to charities, give, give, give  to your healthy heart’s content!