The season of giving is here, and many of us are already in shopping mode, searching for and finding the perfect gifts for our friends and loved ones, and looking for opportunities to give to those who are less fortunate. While we often consider how the recipients may benefit from gift-giving, that’s not the only reason to give. Giving is good for the giver, too!
5 Real Benefits of Giving
1. Giving is Good For Your Mental Health
We all know that giving to others feels good, but there’s evidence that it also promotes better mental health for the giver! Giving helps ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. People with depression are more likely to blame themselves for things that go wrong, to feel a sense of dislike for themselves, to interpret their own actions in the worst possible light, and to remember the mistakes they’ve made in the past. All of these things contribute to low self-esteem. Pursuing compassionate goals, goals that help others, has been shown to improve self-esteem, which can help people with depression and anxiety and even prevent relapse into depression for those who are recovering!
2. Giving Improves Physical Health
But giving isn’t just good for your mental health, it’s good for your physical health, too! Research published in 2016 showed that the act of giving to charity reduced blood pressure among a group of older adults. The reduction in blood pressure was comparable to that associated with taking on a new exercise routine! Giving also reduces stress, and stress is associated with both acute problems, like acid reflux, headaches, and insomnia, but also with chronic health problems like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of heart attack.
3. Giving May Help You Live Longer
Want to make sure you live a good, long life and are around to play with your grandchildren? Giving to others seems to help people live longer! Researchers at the University of Michigan found that those who gave instrumental or emotional support to others were less likely to die within the next five year period during a study conducted among older adults. These results stood even when researchers controlled for health, mental health, age, income, and education level. The acts of giving in the study were simple; providing transportation or doing errands. The giving behaviors showed a greater association with longer life than receiving that help and support. This may be because the act of giving helps reduce stress, and thus the risk of acute and chronic health problems.
4. Giving Makes Us Happier
We all know that warm-glow feeling of giving to someone else, but giving can also make your happier in the long term. Giving can improve self-esteem and give people an increased sense of control over their lives. These things make us happier in general, not just in the moment of giving. Giving can also give us increased feelings of gratitude for what we have, increasing our sense of satisfaction with our lives. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that feelings of happiness resulting from giving to others last longer than the feelings of happiness we get from receiving that gift.
5. Giving Makes Us Feel Less Alone
We all feel lonely sometimes, and that’s especially true since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Persistent feelings of loneliness and isolation can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke, and is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety. Giving to others, it turns out, is a great way to feel less alone.
Humans are social creatures. The thing that’s made us so successful is our ability to create large, interdependent groups of individuals. As a result, we feel good when we engage in pro-social activities, like giving to or helping others. Exchanges of giving and help promote a sense of trust and cooperation that makes us feel less alone. What’s more, it helps build real community bonds, so this effect is long-lasting, and helps not just us, but those around us.
Acts of giving can be simple, like helping a neighbor with chores or errands, providing emotional support to a friend or family member. Giving to charities that help those in need also confers these benefits to the giver, and so does giving physical gifts to others. So keep in mind when you’re finding ways to give this holiday season that the one who gets the biggest gift of all might be you.