Resilience Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

High on giving

It is well documented that ‘giving’ makes you feel better than ‘receiving’.

Harvard professor Michael Norton demonstrated that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves. At a physical level, this is supported by research from the National Institutes of Health, which found that when people donate to charity, the same regions of the brain are activated as when we get high on drugs, alcohol and sexual pleasure.

Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks. This is often referred to as the ‘helpers’ high’ – when we feel good about ourselves for having done something of value to others.

Of course, ‘giving’ also strengthens our social connections. When we give more, we also tend to view others as more generous, kind, trustworthy and deserving, which increases our sense of connectedness. In turn, people who give more also tend to receive more, either from the people they have given to – or by others further down the line.

As giving promotes social connection, it also encourages cooperation, empathy, kindness and tolerance. When we give to people – even people we don’t know and are unlikely to ever see again – our faith and belief in the world we live in is continually restored, making us feel more in control and contributing to the world that surrounds us.

So how about trying it out? Making yourself happier by giving a little?
It doesn’t have to be money. In fact, it might be better if it’s not. It can be anything from lending a helping hand to a friend, sincerely thanking a shop assistance for their help, cooking a loved one a favourite meal… the options are endless!

Today’s task

Pick 5 random acts of kindness right now. Decide on just 5 things you can do in the next week, write them down and put them in your diary as matters of priority. And if you want to try out the advanced version of ‘random acts of kindness’, we invite you to stay on the lookout for extra little acts of kindness you can afford to others as you go through your day. Even an extra friendly smile when you buy your morning coffee, perhaps giving up your seat, holding the door open, paying a compliment, offering a hug to a friend, picking up a piece of rubbish in the street and binning it… the list is goes on.

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