The Research Behind Generosity

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We all know that generosity’s a good thing. In fact, if we’re trying to live a life that reflects true stewardship, we know we’re actually called to be generous. Remember: We’re made in the image of God, and He generously blesses us every single day even though we don’t deserve it. If we want to be more like Him, we have to live generously.

But did you know there’s more to generosity than that warm, fuzzy feeling you get in your heart? Researchers have been exploring how generosity affects our health for years. And, as it turns out, philanthropy comes with a lot of perks.

Here are a few of the benefits generous people get to experience over the course of their lifetime.

Generosity is good for your brain.

Have you ever seen someone do something nice for someone else? Next time that happens, pay attention to the person who is doing the giving. They light up! That reaction is nicknamed “the giver’s glow.” When we give, our brains react the same way as when we get a reward. Our generosity causes our brains to trigger a reaction that releases dopamine and oxytocin, which give us a sense of joy and peace. So, it really is better to give than to receive.

Generosity makes you—and those around you—happier.

Generous people are fun to be around, aren’t they? They aren’t just generous with their checkbooks—they’re also generous with their time, their talents, and their words. They encourage others and inspire them to be better than before. They make their friends feel braver, stronger and smarter. And more than that: Their generosity is contagious. Generosity makes us feel good; and when we feel good, we’re better at making those around us feel good, too.

Generosity can help you live longer.

It might surprise you to find out that generous people live longer than people who don’t give. But the research shows that generosity lowers your stress levels. That’s a big deal since stress is a known risk factor for a lot of chronic diseases. For example, a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who volunteer four hours per week are 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who don’t volunteer.

Generosity counters depression.

Since depression affects almost 15 million American adults today, this is an important discovery. Researchers actually found that people in Alcoholics Anonymous double their chances of success when they help others. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we focus on something other than us, we feel a sense of purpose. We’re doing something that’s bigger than ourselves. That same idea is being used to help people suffering from depression and other disorders.

These studies are just the tip of the iceberg. Generosity comes with so many advantages—not only to those on the receiving end, but to those doing the giving, too. You can think of it like a circle. If we give, we benefit others, which circles back around and benefits us. Isn’t it wild to see how God designed us for something that is mutually beneficial for us and for those around us?

So give it a try this week. Pay for someone’s meal. Offer words of encouragement to someone having a bad day. Or lend a hand to a friend or coworker who needs help with a project. You might be surprised at how good it feels!

money | @ChrisBrownOnAir