Americans are very generous people. More than 95% of people in the United States are active participants in some form of charitable giving. When we cannot give money, we give our used belongings and make clothing donations. When we cannot make veterans donations of items, we volunteer our time. In one way or another, we like to give back to the community and help others. In giving back to our communities, we help ourselves, too. Here are some ways we help oursevles.
- When we give to others, it makes us happy. Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor, studied how people feel after they donate money to others vs. how they felt when they spent that same amount of money on themselves. Norton published his findings in 2008. He discovered that when people gave their money to someone else or to charity, they were much happier. When Sonja Lyubomirsky, a happiness expert and University of California, Riverside psychology professor, say something similar when she had her subjects complete at least five acts of kindness every week for a period of six weeks. Jorige Moll from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has done research showing that the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when people make veterans donations or donations for non profit organizations. Researchers say that when people do nice things for each other, the brain rewards that behavior by releasing endorphins. They call this effect, the “helper’s high.”
- Giving produces feelings of euphoria. The director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, Paul Zak, found that people who give to others will experience the release of the hormone oxytocin. This is the same hormone that is released when we have sex or breast feed children. This can last for up to two hours. Giving and experiencing this can inspire others to give and have the same experience.
- Giving to others makes us healthier. Stephen Post, a Stony Brook University professor of preventative medicine and author of the book, “Why Good Things Happen to Good People,” has done research showing that people who make charitable donations or volunteer their time, have real health benefits. People who do these things and suffer from HIV, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions are healthier than their counterparts who do not give back. Doug Oman from the University of California, Berkeley published a study in 1999 showing that when older people volunteer for at least two organizations live longer. They were less likely to die over a five year period than those who did not volunteer. A lot of this could be due the social connections that were formed volunteering.
- When one person gives back, other people will, too. When one person makes veterans donations, other people will see that and they will give as well. It is a lot like the old shampoo commercials, “You tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on…”A report, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, authored by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, showed that if one person does something generous, the people who witnessed that generosity will do something generous later. Each act rof kindness has been found to inspire dozens or hundreds more.
- Giving to others can help promote social connections and cooperation. Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, two sociologists, have found that people who are generous, who make veterans donations or donate their time, end up being rewarded for their kindness at some other time. These veterans donations and other donations for other charities, help strengthen the sense of community. They build the bonds in communities that make them great places to live. This is good for everyone in the community from the people who benefit from veterans donations to the people who make them to people who have nothing to do with them at all. When the bonds in the community are strengthened, it helps everyone.
Americans give back all year round. While 43% of people in the United States say they do give more during the winter holidays, 44% say they give the same amount all year. It is important to give back to help everyone.