Science Professionals Explore the Mental Science of Giving

Holiday shopping can be pretty scary, to say the least, but there is growing research that suggests that braving the crowds is actually worth. Studies are showing that there are psychological benefits to giving that affect the giver, the recipient, and their communities.


Of course, shopping is not the only way to experience the benefits of giving to others. Research also suggests that you can get these same benefits when you volunteer your time or donate to charities. Here are a few ways that giving back is actually good for your health (


Giving Causes Happiness


Giving can cause us to experience feelings of happiness. A study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2008 by professor Michael Norton and his colleagues uncovered the notion that giving money lifted the giver’s happiness levels. The giver actually felt happier giving the money to someone else than they would if they had spent the money on themselves.


The good feelings associated with giving are also biological. Neuroscientist Jorge Moll and his colleague conducted a study in 2006 at the National Institutes of Health that revealed that when individuals donate to charities, their brains respond to the act of generosity. The section of the brain that is associated with trust, a connection with others and pleasure is activated during giving, which creates the “warm glow” effect. Moll, who has done additional studies on this phenomenon, is a graduate of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and has a PhD in Experimental Pathophysiology.


Giving Improves Our Health


There has also been a significant amount of research connected to generosity and improved health, even with elderly and sick individuals. Stephen Post, who wrote the book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, says that giving has been shown to provide health benefits in people with illnesses like multiple sclerosis and HIV.


A study conducted in 1999 lead by Doug Oman from the University of California Berkeley also found that elderly individuals who were volunteers with two or more organizations were more than 40 percent less likely to pass away in a five-year period than those who did not volunteer.


As you can see, giving has perks that could actually help you to live your best life. It may prove helpful to keep this in mind the next time you get the idea to give a gift to a loved one or volunteer at your local charity.

More about Jorge Moll at