A Harvard Business School study, published online in the Journal of Happiness Studies in April 2011, recently covered on NPR, found that giving to others increased one’s own life satisfaction. When participants were given a small sum of money, they could chose (anonymously) to spend it on themselves, or give it to someone else. Those that chose to give it to someone else generally reported a higher rate of happiness than those who spent it on themselves.
The following is a summary of an article by Jill Suttie, www.dailygood.org, 5/21/13. It’s a good read, and I encourage you all to take a look at it.
In his book When Good Things Happen to Good People, preventive medicine professor Stephen Post wrote that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and MS.
Studies also show sharing can release the hormone oxytocin, which increases one’s sense of well being.
An additional study that found sharing builds trust, a necessary component of happiness. And as we all probably have heard many times over, positive social interactions and connections “significantly” prolong one’s life, a research review by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University found.
Sharing gives rise to gratitude, which is highly correlated with happiness. It also decreases (my emphasis) the disparity between “the haves” and the “have nots”. I emphasize this point, not because it’s more important, but because one might think the opposite was true – that a person might feel more superior in the giving. The study shows this is just not the case.
And last, sharing involves cooperation essential to human evolution. We as a species wouldn’t even be here if we hadn’t figured out throughout the millennia, that cooperation was essential to survival.
The long and short of this (my own) article, is that sharing goes beyond giving all the material gifts we drive ourselves crazy giving each other. The spirit of the holidays is to share something of ourselves, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year, and throughout our lives. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be an acknowledgement of someone you’ve ignored for awhile, a small kindness or special attention, a smile or a nod to a neighbor, a thank you to the man at the meat counter you see every week, or a big hug to someone special, for no particular reason other than to let them know how much they mean to you. And don’t forget those who have no one. If you know someone like that, do give them a call. You’ll probably get as much out of it as they will.
If you are alone at this time of the year, do reach out. Volunteer at your local shelter or food pantry, or go to your local church, synagogue, or house of worship. Whatever you do, find a way to extend yourself and be with others. You’ll be glad you did.
Happy Holidays to all!