Why Giving Makes Us Feel Good

It’s no secret that giving to and helping others is a great way to make a difference in the lives of others. What might come as a surprise is that giving might even do more on a personal level to benefit you than the people you’re helping. Giving has a way of making us feel good like nothing else can. On both an emotional and physical level, here are just a few of the ways that giving makes us feel good.

  • It combats depression.

Giving, especially in the form of volunteering, can help combat depression by making us feel connected to one another. Since volunteering and giving in general is an act performed for the good of another, it also helps combat depression by making people feel as though they have a purpose in life: being part of a greater cause that’s helping people. This feeling also helps to raise a volunteer’s self-esteem and can drastically boost a depressed mood.

  • It makes us feel good on a chemical level.
    • Giving us makes us feel happy, and when we feel this deep, personal sense of happiness, our bodies give off a number of chemicals that make us feel well, good. These chemicals namely include:
      • Dopamine – the feel good chemical that stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers and promotes the desire to do the same activity again.
      • Endorphins – the chemical released in the body when you exercise that helps to reduce stress levels. It also acts as your body’s natural pain reliever and can induce a sense of euphoria as seen in things like the ‘runner’s high.’
      • Oxytocin –  the “hug chemical” released in our bodies during moments of intimacy and connection with one another, like kissing or breastfeeding.

The chemicals released when we volunteer are the same as those we feel any other time that we feel good about the good that we’re doing. So not only do we feel rewarded and more connected to others, we also want to pursue the same actions for the same results.

  • It makes us happier.

In 2008, a professor at Harvard Business School named Michael Norton, alongside a few of his associates, discovered that, when given a certain amount of money, people felt happier about giving it away to someone else than they did spending it on themselves. Think about that: people feel happier giving to other people than they do giving to themselves. The kind of happiness that giving and volunteering can elicit is one that fills us all the way through, working from the inside out.