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The Neuroscience of Giving: Why It’s a Prescription for a Good Life

Have you ever wondered why giving to others feels good? How does our brain react when we help someone, and why does it make us want to do it again?

We’ve all heard of the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive”, and it turns out that this is backed up by neuroscience. In fact, giving has been shown to have many positive effects on our brains and well-being. In this blog, we’ll explore the neuroscience of giving and why it’s a prescription for a good life.

Neuroscience of Giving

To begin, let’s understand what happens in our brains when we give. When we give, our brains release various feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. These chemicals are associated with happiness, pleasure, and social bonding. Giving activates the reward centers in our brains, which makes us feel good. This was demonstrated by Dr. Harbaugh’s study  which found that charitable giving is, shockingly, neurologically comparable to taking an addictive medication or finding you’ve won the lottery. It’s no wonder why many people feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment when they give.

In addition to the joy it brings us, giving provides long-term advantages for our general well-being. For instance, research has shown that individuals who regularly give to charity or engage in acts of kindness are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, giving has been linked to improved physical health, such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and increased life expectancy. The connection between giving and improved health and longevity may be due to a reduction in stress, which is often associated with various health problems.

Our social ties can benefit from giving as well. Giving builds ties with other people, which in turn can increase social support and a sense of belonging. Strong social connections have been linked to greater levels of happiness and health than weak ones, according to research.

The act of giving has a contagious effect as well. When we give, we motivate and inspire others to do the same. This creates a ripple effect of generosity and kindness in our communities, ultimately contributing to our collective well-being in a meaningful way.

Remember, giving doesn’t have to mean spending money or giving away physical items. There are many ways to give, such as volunteering, helping a friend, or showing kindness to a stranger. Giving time and effort can be just as fulfilling and impactful as giving money. Don’t think that you have to donate money to make a difference – your time and effort can be just as valuable!

The neuroscience of giving

Giving is a Prescription for a Good Life

So, why is giving a prescription for a good life? The answer is simple: giving has many benefits for our brains and overall well-being. When we give, we activate the pleasure centers in our brains, which makes us feel good. Giving has also been linked to improved physical health, reduced stress, and stronger social connections. Additionally, giving can inspire others to do the same, creating a positive ripple effect in our communities.

If you’re looking to incorporate more giving into your life, here are some tips to get started:

  • Start small. Giving doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Small acts of kindness, such as holding the door open for someone or offering a compliment, can have a significant impact on someone’s day.
  • Find a cause that you’re passionate about and volunteer your time. Not only will you be giving back to your community, but you’ll also be connecting with like-minded individuals.
  • Practice gratitude. When we practice gratitude, we become more mindful of the blessings in our lives. This, in turn, can inspire us to give back to others.
  • Be kind to yourself. Remember that giving starts with yourself. Take care of your own needs and well-being so that you can show up as your best self for others.

In conclusion, the neuroscience of giving is clear: giving has numerous benefits for our brains and overall well-being. When we give, we activate the pleasure centers in our brains.

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What people are saying about 365give

“I wanted to express my gratitude for the teaching you provided today. Your message was delivered eloquently, compassionately, and without judgment. The kids were engaged, and now have knowledge with which they can change the world. We all appreciated how you took the time to help us learn to build positive mindsets and practice happiness.”
Shelley Gardner, Grade 6 Ridgeview Elementary (West Vancouver)
“Actions really do speak louder than words, which is why I believe the 365give Challenge has resonated throughout my community. Every give we do is so important to us and leaves us happier and appreciating our lives a little bit more than before.”
Mahina Niyozova (Tajikistan)
“After watching the 365give TEDx Talk, I was inspired to join and begin a daily giving program in India. Today, along with 12 other volunteer women, we provide 100 meals to local underprivileged children in Bangalore for school every day.”
Deepika Ahuja, Mom (Bangalore, India)
“My life has greater meaning now.”
Renate Jorge, @BeKindBrazil and 365give Member, Family Program (Brazil)
“I just wanted to share that 365give really helped me. I am a better person now, thank you.”
MayLee, 365give Member, Individual Program
“This 365give Challenge has really injected excitement and extra enthusiasm in each work day as I think about what we can do. It has motivated me and the students.”
Cristina Peters, School Counselor (New York City, USA)
“I have seen a huge shift in energy throughout my classroom since doing the 365give Challenge. The Challenge has empowered my students to make a positive difference in the school’s community and beyond.”
Cella Adriana, Special Needs Educator /The Holliswood School (New York City, USA)
“The 365give Challenge helps students understand their impact on others. It opens avenues for introducing and discussing global and local issues in classrooms. It is powerful to watch students of all ages think about how they can make a change in another person’s life with one small act.”
Jessica Hall, Primary Teacher, French Immersion at École Pauline Johnson (West Vancouver, Canada)