The Benefits of Generosity

Less than one-third of Americans report that they are happy and satisfied with their lives. Does this mean that happiness is almost unattainable? The truth is, many people need to make only small changes to their lives to become happier. One of those changes is to be more generous.

Growing up, every child is taught that they should do good things for other people. This act of helping other people is so powerful that even just considering helping someone else can put you in a better mood. If you are feeling upset or you are struggling with a bad mood, giving back to other people may be the key in becoming happy again.

One study assessed fifty people by dividing them into groups and having them either spend money on themselves or spend it on others. Over the following month, they received MRI scans to measure their brain activity in the regions associated with happiness, social behavior, decision making, and generosity.

The scans showed that people who spent money on others were more generous and had increased self-reported happiness compared to those who spent money on themselves.

Participants were happier at the end of the study regardless of how much money they agreed to spend on someone else. Even just buying a cup of coffee for someone else would make a participant happier.

Many people choose to give to other people because they know they will feel good after doing so. There is actually a neural link between generosity and happiness, which could help explain why doing charitable acts make people feel good.

However, a different study author reported that many people do not recognize the link between generosity and happiness and even assume the opposite to be true. The truth is, just being a bit more generous can make a difference in one's happiness.

You don't need to spend money to be generous, you can contribute to your community with good deeds that are free of cost. Even a small good deed such as letting someone in your lane in traffic is beneficial, but if you can volunteer, it is also great for your mood.

Volunteering can increase your psychological well-being by keeping you active and on your feet, as well as adding some social interaction to your day.

You can also be generous by giving others your respect, courtesy, a compliment, some encouragement, laughter, hope, applause, kindness, hospitality, service, and even forgiveness. These things are sometimes worth more than money.

Having a sense of purpose in your life can also promote better sleep. Sleep problems are very common among older adults and can lead to depression and other health problems. Having negative thoughts can also cause you to lose sleep, especially if you can't turn off your busy mind. Research suggests that one's quality of sleep can be improved by having a higher level of purpose in life.

People with a better sense of purpose are also less likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Having a purpose in life has also been linked to greater use of preventive health care services, which keeps people healthier overall. You may find your life's purpose with your career or your family, or even from volunteering or taking a class.

One thing to consider is that generosity breeds happiness because the person on the receiving end of the generosity ends up having feelings of gratitude. This is an example of how happiness can be contagious from one person to another.

Similar to generosity, gratitude can create measurable effects on your body that can lead to:

  • better sleep
  • positive emotions
  • increase in social bonding hormones
  • increase in mood neurotransmitters
  • stabilized blood sugar

If you want to become happier, take some time to think about the things in life that you are grateful for. People who engage in a gratitude intervention on a regular basis have improvements in their measures of depression, happiness, and stress.

Some things you can do to express your gratitude include writing thank you notes, listing things you are thankful for every day, giving friends hugs, smiling for no particular reason, and talking to friends about positive things.

Generosity can greatly help increase your well-being and it does not have to come at a cost to you. Give a stranger or a friend a smile, compliment, or do a good deed. Anyone can do this and develop the habit of becoming generous to other people.

Both adults and children have been studied and shown great improvements in their happiness when they show generosity towards other people.

It does not matter how old you are, being generous is a tool that is worth using, and a good thing to pass on to future generations. It will benefit both the giver and the receiver.

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