"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."
We are deep into the Season of Giving. Did you know most nonprofits receive half of their annual contributions from October to December? In the U.S., about one-third of all donations come in the month of December, with almost 35% of those gifts occurring on December 31st.
We all know the saying “it is better to give than to receive.” We are taught to give and it feels good to help someone in need. But what drives people to give? While it is gratifying to know that we are helping, there are times when we ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?“
In exploring this question, I came across Jenny Santi’s 2015 book, The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories and Science Behind the Transformative Power of Giving. The scientific answer is that giving stimulates a part of the brain that makes us feel good and gives us that “warm feeling” that reinforces our behavior and makes us want to keep doing it. Even when giving happens involuntarily, there is a corresponding positive neural reaction, but voluntary giving elicits a more pronounced warm glow. It’s the same for volunteering and helping someone in that way. A “helper's high” happens when people perform good deeds for others.
So, not only can you help someone by giving or volunteering this holiday season, but you can give yourself a nice warm glow at the same time!