How charitable giving benefits your mental health

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This title from Time Magazine really does say it all: “Being Generous Really Does Make You Happier.”

Researchers from the Unviersity of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 participants that they’d be receiving about $100 in a few weeks. Twenty-five people promised to spend that money on themselves, and twenty-five people committed to spend the money on someone they knew who needed it.

Next, researchers asked all the participants to think about a friend they’d like to give a gift to, and how much money that person would possibly spend. Each participant had an MRI of their brains, especially noting the parts of the brain that deal in social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.

The people who had agreed to spend their money on other people had more activity in the regions of their brain associated with altruism and happiness, even reporting higher levels of happiness after the experiment ended.

There is other research that points to the connection between generosity and better health. How about this 2005 study where elderly participants who gave and received social support were associated with lower morbidity? Or this 2017 study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute about how the more people give the better they feel?

Simply put, it improves your health to give, whether that means financial donations or with acts of service to people in need. Charitable giving can improve your quality of life by simply changing your outlook to recognize your privileges, and how you can help the less fortunate. The more you give, the more you serve, the more it becomes second nature.

So get out there and serve someone today!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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