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Money Doesn't Buy Happiness -- Giving Does

By KJ Mullins     Dec 31, 2007 in Lifestyle
It's that time of the year. Charities are out in droves trying to get your hard-earned cash. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, those who pull out their wallet just may be a happier lot for it.
Of those surveyed, 43% more of those who donate are "very happy" about there lives than those who keep all of their money to themselves. Those who volunteer their time were also happier than those who don't by 42%.
It doesn't matter where or how you give of yourself when it comes to that happiness factor. Those who give walk in every shoe, from religious to nonreligious. The survey showed that income, religion, education, politics, sex and family circumstances didn't alter the numbers. There was not another characteristic that merged those with the happiness factor other than those who donate are happier. When it came to those who donate on average they were 11 percentage points more likely to be happy than those who did not donate.
Those who give don't always use money as their gift. Giving blood is something over 15% of Americans do every year. It seems those who give a piece of themselves are even happier than others.
Giving does not have to be in a traditional sense to have a positive benefit. Giving directions to a stranger or handing a homeless person a cup of coffee are both ways of helping someone out. The end benefit of simple acts of kindness seems to be higher levels of life satisfaction.
So why does giving back make such a big difference in the happiness factor? Psychologists have referred to the reaction as the "Helper's High". Our brain chemistry actually changes a little when we are helping our fellow man. The endorphins that come forth produce a mild version of the sensations people get from "happy" drugs like morphine and heroin. Another added bonus is that stress hormones are lowered when we give to others.
A study done in 1998 at Duke University had senior citizens giving infants a massage. There was no thank-you as a reward. The idea studied was what happens when a person does a compassionate act without expecting a reward. The reward that was garnered was dramatically lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine in the seniors brains.
The message of all of this? Give of yourself. Don't think in terms of getting something back, just crack a big smile and go out to serve others. Without meaning to, you will be rewarded.
More about Donating, Charities, Happiness