"Giving: The Gift That Gives Back"by Bivi Franco on 01/21/17
With Christmas approaching and the passing of Thanksgiving, giving is something on everyone’s mind. Whether it is giving thanks for a year full of blessings and the simple things in life or mulling over what gifts to give friends and loved ones, everyone begins to feel a little tapped out from the constant demands of the season. But what if this season was a time to step back and reflect on what it means to be human. To remember all the gifts that come with being alive, regardless of how hard things get. And the opportunity to offer our time and resources to let the people we love most know how much we care about and value them. Would we view this season differently?
The truth is that giving from the heart does more than just benefit the recipient. It does more than produce a feeling of “warm fuzzies.” Research shows that “…support giving, much like support receiving, is associated with a number of beneficial mental and physical health outcomes. Specifically, giving to others is associated with lower mortality rates over a 5-year period, fewer sick days, and reduced cardiovascular activity over a 24-hour period” (444). In a study comparing neural benefits of support giving versus support receiving, researchers found a couple of interesting things. The first of these is that people who participated in more support giving were less prone to react negatively in stressful situations (448). The second is that both support giving and support receiving activated the reward center of the brain, yet only support giving had a positive impact on the brain itself (450). And perhaps the most pertinent finding is that “the more participants reported giving support to others, the more caregiving-related neural activity they showed to trials in which they chose to give another person in need” (450).
So what does this mean? It means that there are very clear advantages to taking the time to offer support to those in your family and community. It means that the time you are spending, the resources you are giving to support Feel Beautiful Today and the beautiful cancer patients we work with is wiring your brain to be more generous and less stressed. It means that it truly is better to give than to receive, and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is choose to be a blessing to others.
Inagaki TK, Bryne Haltom KE, et al. “The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity.” Psychosom Med. 2016 May;78(4):443-53.