The Science Of Giving

Written by Shannon Yrizarry

How Giving Makes You Happy

You want to know something cool?

By giving, you can heal faster emotionally and physically.

A study found that recovering alcoholics who helped others were twice as likely to be sober in a year than people who didn’t and they were less depressed. This study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, followed participants in Alcoholic Anonymous and is a great example of why we here at Give Love are spreading awareness about giving. The implications of giving can help with much more than substance abuse.

Scientific evidence now proves that giving can significantly improve your life. This is monumental because people want to know that they will get a return on their investment when they give. For two decades, researchers have coined a term called, ‘the helper’s high’ which was documented by Allan Luks who studied volunteerism and altruism. Giving has been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex in the brain which is the same area activated when we have sex or see babies. Giving is a primal urge that creates euphoria in the giver.

Studies have actually shown using fMRI’s that more blood flow occurs in the brain when people think about donating or giving than when they think about selfish actions. This means that we are hardwired to take care of each other, not to compete against each other.

The helper’s high has been compared to the runner’s high because it releases endorphins making people feel stronger and more energetic. It activates the rewards system in our brains. The blood flow and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex comes from increased neuron firing.

Why is Give Love so excited about its’ concept? The implications of spreading a culture of giving are very far reaching. It can help combat depression and help solve problems in our society. There are physical effects of giving. All the way back in 1988, Luks reported a study in Psychology Today that showed that giving made people feel high. This test included 1700 women who were volunteering on a regular basis.

Another study conducted at UC Berkeley found that humans are not in fact hardwired to be selfish rather, we are inclined to be compassionate. They found that our survival instincts are nurturing, not violent. Even Darwin noted emotions of altruism many times in his famous discourse ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and he observed nurturing, love and compassion in the natural world. It turns out altruism is now being considered a sort of miracle drug because of its physical effects on the body.

The protective nature of mothers for their kin is a perfect example of how nature is hardwired to be cooperative for survival. Mothers bring their young food and protect them from the cold. Penguins, birds, bears, kittens and puppies all look out for their offspring. Herbert Benson is a Harvard doctor that has studied the physical affects of giving on the body and he noticed effects similar to the runner’s high.

It’s been proven the brain releases dopamine, the pleasure chemical, when we give.

We can all be a part of this call to action for our health and the global community. For so long we have thought emotions and science are separate but now we know they are intricately linked. Happiness is generated from giving and happiness releases chemicals that heal the physical body. Endorphins are natural pain relievers and stress fighters. When our stress lowers, our inflammation caused by hormone imbalance can be greatly reduced. Endorphins also speed up the healing process!

Is this blowing your mind?

We are so excited for the potential health implications of giving. We can’t wait to get the ball rolling with our latest Giving Chain that will allow people to upload stories about giving and track where their necklace has been.

You may want to check out a book called 21 Gifts. This book is about a woman with a nervous system disorder. Because of this disorder she has to walk with a cane. The woman contacts a spiritual counselor who gives her a giving prescription. She is instructed to give a gift away for 21 days. By the end of the 21 days, she is walking without a cane. This is an example of the healing power of giving. Hopefully as you read this, you start to realize how easy it is to improve your own life and inspire others to do the same.  

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