The Power Of Giving

Giving Back To Someone Helps Their Situation, But Can It Help Yours As Well?


Taylor Shively, Staff Writer

It’s the holiday season and with that comes a lot of giving. Both children and adults are most often than not taught that it is better to give than receive. But why do we give, why does it feel good to give?

Surprisingly, there is scientific data that provides compelling data to support the notion that giving is a powerful way to find purpose in life etc. For example, at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are hardwired to be selfish. There is a lot of evidence that shows that we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative.

There are many studies and examples that allow people to see the science behind giving. For example, in 1989, economist James Andreoni introduced the concept of “warm-glow giving.” This concept attempts to explain why people give to charity. Some people think that our brains are hardwired to our survival, but the fact of the matter is, we are more motivated to help others most of the time.

There is something called ‘impure altruism.’ Instead of being motivated solely by an interest in welfare or themselves, people who give, or “warm-glow givers,” receive utility from just the act of giving alone. Utility is a term that is used mostly by scientists/economists to speak of how much one enjoys something or the security they feel after doing something. In this case, the utility being spoken of is the warm-glow giving.

Altruism is like a miracle drug, its been around forever. The feeling people get when helping others is what researchers call the “helper’s high.” This term was first introduced by wellness expert Allan Luks. In a 1988 study, Luks examined the physical effects of giving. He studied 1, 700 women that volunteered on a regular basis. In the end, a full 50% of helpers reported feeling ‘high’ when they helped others. Another 43% felt stronger and more energetic. It’s like a runner’s high, this happens when a runner’s endorphin levels rise. The helper’s high happens when people do good things for others. In a way, it’s kind of like nature’s built-in reward system.

It has been proven that people connect more with someone who has been through similar situations, whether that is battling an addiction/disease or losing a loved one. In one study, people with multiple sclerosis, or otherwise referred to as MS, were trained to provide support over the phone for 15 minutes a month with a someone else who also suffered from MS. The helpers ended up being more self-confident, had better self-esteem, and displayed less depression. Some even had a drop in pain.

Helping someone else can benefit their situation but also your own. Scientists have and continue to get a lot of scientific research that proves that giving benefits the givers mental and physical health. This is a perfect time of year to consider when thinking about what we will give this holiday season?