One of the best ways to boost your self-esteem is to give. Whether it’s money or time, a kind gesture can have profound effects—both for the recipient and the giver.
4 Reasons Giving Feels Good
- Giving activates parts of the brain associated with pleasure. Acts of kindness trigger the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin, which can help lower stress.
- Giving brings people closer together. That may help explain why giving is such an important part of many traditions. Not only does giving trigger a sense of social connection that makes us feel more secure, it also inspires others to give—causing a ripple effect that can spread across entire communities.
- Giving may be good for your health. Studies have linked forms of giving such as volunteering and social support to lower blood pressure and greater longevity. In fact, studies of elderly couples showed that those who helped others had a reduced likelihood of dying within a 5-year period compared to those who did not help others.
- Giving changes the way you perceive the world. You are more likely to view the world positively when you are being kind and generous. This can give you more opportunities to see the good in others, cultivate gratitude and live optimistically—which can have positive effects on your life and your relationships.
How to Give “The Right Way”
It’s important to recognize that giving can have a dark side. Sometimes, giving can become a device used to gain affection or respect, control others, show off your status or save face. In these cases, the positive effects of giving can be lost on both the giver and the recipient. This can result in feelings of hurt or lack of appreciation.
It’s important to give genuinely and unconditionally in order to generate positive benefits. The key is to be unattached to the result of your gift. You should give because you want to, not because you feel obligated or expect something in return.
Holiday Giving During a Pandemic
The holidays are a great time to practice giving without attachment to results. This year, as the world grapples with a pandemic, giving might look a little different. You may find that the challenges you or your loved ones face in getting together inspire more creative ways to give. You may also find that you are more grateful for what you have this year, or that you want to give to someone you had never considered before. Remember that simple gestures carry a lot more weight than most people think—especially during trying times. Whatever your situation may be, no gift is too small if you really want to give it.
Volunteering your time, buying and mailing thoughtful presents, making gifts by hand, donating money to support a cause or even doing something kind for a stranger are all fulfilling ways to give. As a general guideline, if it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re not giving for the right reasons.
Ultimately, the more generous you are for the right reasons, the happier and more peaceful you (and you those around you) will be.