Does the phrase “lose yourself to find yourself” resonate with you?
Many people give their money, time and talent to worthy causes. The act of giving has tremendous benefits.
In a survey of 4,500 adults, 41 percent of those surveys volunteered 100 hours or more. The overwhelming majority of those people said that giving their time made them happier. These volunteers also had lower stress levels and a sense of well-being, both of which made them feel healthier.
But exactly how does giving promote happiness?
People feel happiest when they’re socially connected. There’s another saying that “if you help someone up the hill, you get closer yourself.” The deep engagement people feel when giving their time and talents promotes that person’s own healing process. A study done at The University of California at Berkeley showed that people aged 55 or older were 44 percent less likely to die during a 5-year period when they volunteered regularly for two or more organizations.
Social connection helps create generous behavior and positive feelings, and it’s been demonstrated in published research. A team of Canadian and American researchers studied the emotional benefits of giving. The research team found that charity giving combined with a social connection reaps the most rewards. Donors were happiest when they were able to connect directly with the benefactors and see the impact of their gift.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton conducted a very interesting study with his college undergrads as subjects. The students reported to class bright and early one morning, expecting their regular lecture. Instead, the students received envelopes of money. Half were directed to spend the money on themselves. The other half had to spend the money on others. Prior to spending, a student survey showed that most expected that spending money on their own needs would make them happiest. Afterwards, the students found they were happiest spending money on others, even as little as $5.
Worldwide, giving is a trend as well. People from 136 countries were asked survey questions about scenarios that made them happy – 122 of the countries said that giving to charity equaled doubling their income in terms of happiness.
So it seems that good deeds lead to good feelings, and people are happiest when they can see the benefits first-hand. Research also shows that people are happiest donating both time and money rather than just one of those.
Striving for material things like a house or car might be rewarding for a time, but that pursuit is likely not to keep you happy for long. Money can buy happiness, but not just for yourself, as the Harvard study shows.