The Power of Giving: The Literature On How Generosity Boosts Your Own Wellbeing
Updated: May 29
In a world often focused on self-interest, acts of giving have the incredible ability to forge deeper connections and bring about a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits to those who give. I had the pleasure of helping to run the DGR2023 here in Melbourne over the weekend and it prompted me to look into the science of why it made ME feel so good...
So, I looked into the science behind the positive effects of giving, and how it can enhance people's overall wellbeing. So, let's dive into the fascinating research that supports the notion that giving is not only good for others but also for ourselves.
Physical Benefits of Giving
When you engage in acts of generosity, it turns out that you're not only benefiting others but also improving your own physical health. Studies have shown that giving can actually help to reduce stress levels. Researchers Poulin et al. (2013) found that individuals who engage in prosocial behaviors, such as giving, experience lower stress levels. The act of giving promotes the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with stress reduction, leading to a more relaxed state. Moreover, Sneed and Cohen (2013) conducted a study showing that engaging in giving behaviors was linked to lower blood pressure, and promoting cardiovascular health.
Mental Benefits of Giving
Giving has a profound impact on our mental wellbeing. When we give, we experience increased happiness and life satisfaction. Aknin et al. (2013) discovered that individuals who spent money on others experienced greater happiness compared to those who spent money on themselves. Similarly, a study by Dunn et al. (2008) found that performing acts of kindness over a 10-day period led to an increase in overall life satisfaction. Furthermore, giving has the potential to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Zelenski et al. (2013) found that individuals who engaged in daily acts of kindness experienced reduced levels of depressive symptoms. Additionally, volunteering, has been associated with positive mental health outcomes, including a decrease in anxiety, as highlighted in a review by Piliavin and Siegl (2007).
Emotional Benefits of Giving
Giving cultivates empathy, fostering meaningful connections with others. Goetz et al. (2010) conducted a study that revealed giving behaviors increased feelings of empathy and connectedness with others. Additionally, a longitudinal study by Harbaugh et al. (2007) showed that charitable donations predict increased subjective happiness, highlighting the positive impact of giving on our emotional well-being.
Do you spend much of your time in the year 'giving'?
As you can see from the above, the scientific literature overwhelmingly supports the idea that giving has remarkable physical, mental, and emotional benefits for the giver. So, let's embrace the power of giving, whether it's through financial contributions, volunteering, or simple acts of kindness, and reap the rewards of Living your Best Life....
Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Happiness runs in a circular motion: Evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(6), 1629-1641.
Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.
Goetz, J. L., Keltner, D., & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: An evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(3),351-374.
Harbaugh, W. T., Mayr, U., & Burghart, D. R. (2007). Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving reveal motives for charitable donations. Science, 316(5831), 1622-1625.
Piliavin, J. A., & Siegl, E. (2007). Health benefits of volunteering in the Wisconsin longitudinal study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48(4), 450-464.
Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 103(9), 1649-1655.
Sneed, R. S., & Cohen, S. (2013). A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28(2), 578-586.
Zelenski, J. M., Murphy, S. A., & Jenkins, D. A. (2013). The happy-productive worker thesis revisited. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1007-1032.