If Giving Feels Good, Why Don’t We Do It More Often?

Volunteers at a food drive

If giving feels good, why don’t we do it more often?
Image: Shutterstock

Around this time of year, many of us find ourselves being much more generous than usual. Not only do many people give gifts to friends and family around the holidays, in general, it seems that people are more likely to make donations or buy a homeless man coffee at the local coffee shop. Not only does it make the people receiving these things feel great; being generous can give you a boost of good feelings, too.

In 2009 a study was published that suggested being the receiver of generosity can trigger a release of oxytocin, which is the hormone associated with feelings of love and trust. The study also suggested that after an initial act of generosity, a sort of domino effect takes place. It turns out that recipients of generosity were more likely to be generous to other people; in essence, the chain reaction of paying it forward takes place.

Something worth pointing out is that we get these effects regardless of whether we are giving to a loved one or a complete stranger. When you give to another person, there is a physiological response that rewards our brain, and we get a boost of feel-good endorphins, similar to a “runner’s high.” With all of these warm and fuzzy benefits to giving, why don’t more of us do it more often?

Sure, it sounds great to give, but what are the reasons that most of us end up not giving throughout the year, rather than just around the holidays? Often, we don’t instantly see or understand the benefits. Giving away money can be a stressful thing, and some may see it as adding even more of a stress.

In general, people think that giving is too complex. After all, there are countless worthy organizations and causes to volunteer your time with, or donate money to. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about giving, focus on picking a cause that means something to you, and the rest becomes simple. Also, the next time you see someone down on their luck, remember that buying them a cup of coffee is not only a kind thing to do, but something that will make you feel good, too.

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