Giving is not only beneficial to the receiver, but the giver, too! This series highlights the emotional and mental benefits of giving. From sending thoughtful gifts to your family to spreading random acts of kindness to strangers, we explore the many emotional perks of being generous and the positive effects it has on your well-being.
The gift of giving is a wonderful feeling. It’s a special moment to see the smile on your loved one’s face while they’re opening each gift you have picked out for them.
Though we may not spend much time thinking of the benefits of gifting, there are a surprising number of ways in which this act of kindness can positively influence your life. Not only does it strengthen the bond between giver and receiver, but studies have shown that giving has added health benefits. It can help boost your physical health and mental well-being as well as make you feel generous in other aspects of your life.
Want to learn more about these benefits? Below are some simple yet overlooked outcomes that all stem from the generous act of gifting to others.
Giving strengthens your relationships
One of the greatest benefits of gift giving is strengthening the relationship with the person receiving the gift. There is an enormous sense of satisfaction when seeing the expression on the face of someone you’ve given a gift to. It shows that you have acknowledged the person and appreciate their presence in your life.
“You come to know the person even better,” said Dr. Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard, in an interview with NPR. “If you spend time thinking about the gift, that thinking is good for you in ways that people might not be aware of. You are going to be thinking about what they might like, what you can afford, and making these decisions is empowering for the gift giver.”
“There is the whole act — determining what needs to be given and making sure it fits with the person,” said Devin A. Byrd, Ph.D., associate professor of Behavioral Sciences at South University. “There is an emotional lift when searching for the gift.”
When you give to others, you are improving your psychological health.
Gift-giving is also a way for the giver to reduce guilt. Perhaps there is some distance between you and the gift receiver, which can be remedied through this act of kindness. “It can be a replacement for not being there with the person,” Dr. Byrd said.
Being generous boosts your mental health
Just as it feels good to lift someone else’s spirits with a gift, you can receive that same feeling. When you give to others, you are improving your psychological health. “It makes you feel generous and in control,” Dr. Langer said. “It lends a sense of power you can carry into other parts of your day.”
With this boost to esteem and self-worth comes a genuinely increased optimistic mood and outlook on life. Positive chemical reactions may lead to an ongoing pattern of improved mental health and well-being.
Giving also activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure. According to Scott Bea, PsyD at Cleveland Clinic, “there is evidence that during gift-giving behaviors, humans secrete feel good chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.” Additionally, in a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, they found that giving stimulates the reward center in the brain — releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the “helper’s high.”
Gift-giving may help you live longer
One of the many reasons why giving is so good for you is that it acts as a way to de-stress your everyday life. One study led by Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D, assistant psychology professor at the University at Buffalo, showed that gift-giving is tied with having a longer life.
“If you do something positive, positive psychology says you attract positive.”Dr. Darlene Silvernail, South University psychology professor
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, followed 846 subjects as they reported the amount of time in the past 12 months they had spent helping, providing for, or gifting to friends, neighbors, or relatives. The researchers found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others were less likely to die than those who had not helped others. “Helping others reduced mortality by buffering the association between stress and mortality,” Poulin said. In short, gifting is an activity that reduces stress – and a reduction in stress is the key to a longer life.
Giving promotes a spirit of generosity
Giving a gift to someone else can set off a chain reaction. Since the feeling of gift-giving boosts your mood, you may want to keep this spirit alive in other ways, such as sponsoring a good cause. Or, perhaps the person you’re gifting to now may be more willing to gift to others. “If you do something positive, positive psychology says you attract positive,” said Dr. Darlene Silvernail, a psychology professor at South University.
In short, your simple act of giving can serve as a positive example that others can model, promoting their own sense of self-worth and reducing their own stress. Perhaps we can keep paying it forward and keep giving gifts as a way to make the world a better place!