Giving is getting: How generosity is good for your health
We are all familiar with that warm feeling that comes from putting a smile on someone’s face, but did you know that science has actually proven that the benefits of giving back extend beyond those you’re giving to?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. Especially because as women we tend to take on much of the responsibility around the holidays: decorating, shopping for gifts, hosting social gatherings, and balancing vacation schedules with pressing deadlines.
Thankfully, there are many proven ways to combat stress and ensure a more festive holiday season. In fact, something many of us tend to do this time of year anyway — the act of generosity — can be extremely beneficial to both mental and physical well-being. In fact, researchers out of the University of Buffalo found a connection between generosity and a longer life. The key discovery: helping others buffers the effects of stress and leads to increased wellbeing.
You’ve probably experienced this, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s the feeling you get when you give a gift to an eager child and watch the look of glee upon their face as they rip open the wrapping. It’s the same feeling that comes from donating your time or money to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.
And no matter how much you make, it will make you happy to give. Research by social psychologist Liz Dunn from The University of British Columbia shows that people’s sense of happiness is greater when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves. Interestingly, the same findings were true across all income levels. So whether you’re giving gifts to loved ones and friends or giving charitably, the more you give the better you feel.
With so many charities in need of support, how do you know where your money will best be used? Try to find a charity that aligns with your own values and beliefs and begin there. SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. partners with a number of leading women’s health organizations including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and FacingCancer.ca to support women going through cancer treatment and recovery.
Giving your time and energy to a worthy cause is also extremely valuable. Research shows that when you do a good deed your body releases endorphins (the neurotransmitters also associated with making you feel good when you exercise) leading to what some call a “helper’s high.”
One of the best ways to give of yourself is to match your expertise or skills with a worthy cause. Be it cooking meals, running workshops, or organizing a charity drive, your time can be as valuable, if not more so, than your money. Take Look Good Feel Better, for example, which recruits makeup artists to generously donate their time to cancer patients, helping them feel human again despite the ravages of cancer and its treatment. Doing what you love and providing a service to those who will benefit from it is double-beneficial and a great way to practice generosity.
Now take that generosity to the workplace, where you’ll experience even more benefits. Research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found “altruists in the workplace are more likely to help fellow employees, be more committed to their work, and be less likely to quit.” And, the study continues, “these workplace altruists enjoy a pretty important benefit themselves—they are happier than their fellow employees.”
Knowing that your colleagues are likely experiencing their own form of holiday stress, consider promoting generosity within the workplace, going out of your way to help others, finding a cause you can all work to support as a team, and spreading that good old fashioned holiday cheer.