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Benefits of Giving – The Theory of Karma

There are many benefits of giving, we can gain great rewards from sourcing and choosing a gift for someone. It doesn’t matter if you give a gift of money, donate things, volunteer or provide assistance to someone, the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. So what are the benefits of giving and participating in these activities? I’ll explain below.

Boosts our happiness

Business professors and psychology lecturers agree that when we give it increases our sense of happiness. When the gift is money, it has been shown that we benefit more by spending on others than we do by keeping the money for ourselves.

Happiness at work depends on giving. Care and key workers don’t see what they do as altruistic or martyrdom, but the benefits they reap are more to do with a healthy psychological reward from helping others. In the current climate, it would be a normal response for those in a medical role or caring role to be a little bit anxious. That said, they do what they do on the whole because they reap many rewards from helping others. That is why most of them chose the profession they did.

I certainly recognise that when I am able to help someone out of pain and back to health – be that physical or emotional, I can say “I had a good day at the office”. I struggle with the fact that I can’t see clients or patients in the current climate.

Ripple effect – giving is contagious

Giving creates a ripple effect out into the wider community by inspiring others who witness the act to do likewise. Generosity beats selfishness hands down in the longer term too. The immediate release of oxytocin rewards us with feelings of warmth, euphoria, and a deeper connection with others. It instills greater generosity by the observer and instills greater empathy towards those less fortunate either financially or in health. The immediate benefit response lasts a good two hours.

The theory of Karma is that if you do good, good will return to you. This is the basis of paying it forward. The gift you give may bring you good, if not necessarily from the person you give to. This is because the response is an increase akin to a sense of trust, cooperation and strengthening of bonds between people. This social connection ripples out into the wider community creating a sense of connection. Look at how local groups throughout lockdown provided comfort and benefit such as ‘Corona Hero’s’ in your area.

Gifting keeps the cycle of good going by making you feel selfless and this makes you want to help again. The more you give the greater the benefits all round. Research indicates that being kind increases the perception of closeness by being positive and charitable.

What the brain does here

We know that the brain doesn’t know what is real and made up, so when we recall the act of giving we get a replay of the feelings associated with the act too. We like that feeling and so are encouraged to repeat the kindness.

Giving negates stress

A study published in Scientific American showed that when people are stingy, most at some point experience a sense of shame. This releases our old enemy cortisol. The study compared cortisol levels – comparing between groups that gave and groups that kept money. The more they kept, the more shame they felt, and the more cortisol released. Don’t get me wrong, some stress is good but sustained high levels of stress is detrimental to our health. Another study showed that those who give support to others had lower blood pressure and this is considered a major benefit to those who give of themselves.

Stephen Post, professor of preventative medicine in his book ‘Why good things happen to good people’ talks about the health benefits of giving. Giving to those who have long-term chronic illnesses. Several sources speak of reduced mortality in elderly volunteers who contribute to at least two charities. This may in part be down to an increased sense of purpose, a reason to live. Being more active and a sense of belonging to a wider group not just family and friends but strangers, a cause and neighbourhood.

Volunteering is accepted to increase our sense of well-being, satisfaction in life and reduce depression. Giving and selfless acts is thought to contribute to a reduction in risk of early death ( American Journal of Public Health). Running errands or putting someone’s bin out helps to buffer the stress versus mortality association they say.

Bio-social and cultural factors influence a person’s willingness to engage in acts of giving and the act itself accrues many benefits. It increases the bond between friends, family members and neighbours and improves our sense of well-being.

Gratitude

Both the giver and receiver of a gift have the feeling of gratitude evoked upon the act. It encourages us to count our blessings which in turn increases our optimism, makes us more likely to take physical exercise and makes us feel generally better about life.

Relationships

When a gift is given to a friend or romantic partner it strengthens the relationship. The National Marriage Project (USA) in 2011 found that generosity in a relationship is key to a successful marriage. That act of generosity didn’t need to be any more than making a spontaneous cuppa, having dinner ready for the other when they had been held up at work or a back rub. The forgiving or affectionate gesture was found to be key. What could be more important than the boost in happiness and positivity when expressed in word or deed within a relationship? I know that the reverse is true. If my hubby makes himself a cuppa and doesn’t include me I sense disappointment.

Benefits in brief

The benefits of giving, demonstrates gratitude no matter how small. Creating stronger bonds between people – the giver and receiver benefit, the positive feeling is mutual. In fact, giving can see a greater reward than receiving. Expression of satisfaction of the receiver reinforces appreciation of the giver, and acknowledgement of their worth reacting to stronger bonds. Giving encourages healing by boosting our immunity, reducing cortisol, and leading to greater life expectancy. Paying it forward or giving without expectation can cause a ripple effect and benefit the wider community. It can also trigger others to do similar. (Making wash bags or ear protectors for NHS workers for example).

So what’s stopping you? Have a think about what you could gift and what effect that act will have not just on the person or agency that receives that help, but you too.

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