The Science of Giving – Dr. Shimi Kang MD.

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The Science of Giving

The holidays are a time of giving. We not only give thanks but give our time as well as gifts. Giving back is a foundational part of being human, and it provides a sense of closeness and goodwill within a friendship, a family, or even a community. The science of giving shows that it’s not just those that receive benefit, either. Here are the ways giving to someone else could be beneficial for you. 

The Giving Brain

When we give, our brain releases oxytocin, endorphin, and dopamine. Oxytocin promotes bonding, trust, and empathy. Endorphin is our bodies’ internal morphine or painkiller and gives us a sense of peace and bliss. Both oxytocin and endorphin have been shown to reduce stress. As for dopamine, it’s responsible for feelings of pleasure. Dopamine can be addictive if released alone—it can have you seeking short bursts of pleasure, like chocolate cake or a video game score. When we give, we receive all three of these powerful neurochemicals, and we get pleasure, bliss, and bonding as a reward. 

One study found that the act of giving could reduce your risk of early death in some instances. This is because giving decreases stress, thus decreasing the chances of health problems associated with stress. Dopamine and oxytocin are responsible for various beneficial effects, especially improved memory function and increased focus and attention span.

The Community & Social Effects of Giving Back

Giving can have profound effects on our social bonds to others and our community. A 2011 report from the National Marriage Project found that generosity was a significant factor in whether a marriage was considered happy or not. When we give to others, we show that we care. This act of giving creates stronger relationships and better social connections. The incredible thing about giving is that it’s contagious. When you give to a friend or someone in your community, this goodwill will be multiplied. 

Giving is good for each other, our communities, and ourselves. It promotes our health, feels great, and rewards us, which, in turn, drives us to want to give more. 

How to Give This Season

You may find yourself feeling a little “bah humbug” about the holidays this year as we work to respect physical distancing; however, there are other ways to give. Here are just some of the ways to give this season without getting too close:

  • Send a holiday card in the mail.
  • Edit a fun video montage together of all your friends or family to send to someone who may be feeling a little alone.
  • Jump on a zoom call for a face-to-face holiday party.
  • Press play on a holiday movie and speak on the phone like you’re watching together.
  • Share recipe ideas.
  • Send a gift basket from a local business.
  • Make a scrapbook and send it in the mail or wrap it up and deliver it in safe packaging.
  • Donate to a community initiative on someone’s behalf.
  • Donate food, toys, and clothing to local drives and food banks. 

Giving back has been shown to increase feelings of happiness, overall health, and social bonds. It’s part of being human, and it promotes gratitude and empathy. What are some of the ways you’re going to give back this year? Share this post on your social channels and ask your friends and family how they’ll give back.

Looking for ways to give this season using technology but want to avoid its harmful aspects and addictive nature? Pick up my book The Tech Solution. In this book, I dive deep into how technology can be used in a healthy way while avoiding the negative pitfalls.