The Reciprocal Power of Charitable Giving
By: Steven L. Schou, CFP®, AWMA®, Vice President Business Development & Wealth Advisor
As the old saying goes, “It is better to give than to receive.” Through recent studies, medical science is showing that for the good at heart, there may be something to this adage. Giving of yourself – whether it is your time, energy or money – isn’t just a win to those you’re helping; it can benefit you, as well.
A study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that donating to charity may improve one’s physical and emotional well-being. Other research has found that generosity benefits the giver, from improving everyday job satisfaction to adding more years to your life. Put simply, it makes us feel better to help. In fact, research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that helping others while on the job creates a higher level of happiness at work. Other studies show that many forms of generosity can lead to better health, even among the sick and elderly. A 1999 study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after factoring in their age, exercise habits, and general health, whether good or bad.
Charitable giving can be good for the soul and the heart. One 2006 study conducted by the International Journal of Psychophysiology made a very interesting discovery. It found that giving can boost cardiovascular health. Participants who gave social support to people within their network had lower overall blood pressure and arterial pressure than those who didn’t.
Being charitable creates a response in the brain that elicits a surge of dopamine and endorphins which leads to pleasurable and contented feelings in the deepest parts of our physiology. And it’s not just when we donate to a charity that causes these reactions. People who volunteer score better on key measurements in overall health, such as resilience during physical activity and blood pressure levels, than people who do not. The improved happiness and health of people who volunteer and make charitable contributions is likely linked to reduced rates of stress, as well.
Giving our time and money to others tends to have significant implications for our individual well-being and that of our local communities and nation. Charitable giving is associated with higher levels of health and happiness, and increased and strong community organizations. In fact, lending a helping hand may boost our longevity.
Natural disasters, riots, the threat of war – we are living in stressful times where we feel we have very little control of what’s happening around us. One way to take control is to give of ourselves – whether donating to local homeless shelter, national humanitarian organization, volunteering in our community, or even running errands or doing chores for a neighbor in need. Doing things for others can often protect us from the negative impact of stress. People who don’t help others have been found to have a greater level of depression. The financial and non-financial advantages demonstrate that giving is good not only for the receiver, but also for the giver—as well as our communities.
Whether we make a point to volunteer or incorporate charitable giving into our overall yearly budgets and financial plans, we can make a difference and by doing so we’re not only helping others in need, but we may be improving our own health and well-being, too.
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