The Goodness of Giving
Why acts of kindness cause the brain’s pleasure centre to light up
Giving is a good idea on many levels.
Showing others kindness, support or empathy has a direct positive effect on your own mental health – at it’s most basic, giving makes you feel good. And it’s not restricted just to the giving of money, it can also be giving time for volunteering or taking part in fund-raising events ranging from marathons to sky dives, coffee mornings and bake sales.
Whether it’s small or big, an act of kindness can give you a sense of pride and purpose, making you feel happier and more satisfied with life – and in the work context, it can bond you together as a group with a common interest.
We are hard-wired for goodness…
There’s something about giving that feels so good. It might stem from the fact than in order to have the capacity to give, whether it’s your time or money, you have to be in a place that allows it. In simple terms, it means you have enough to be able to give some away.
If you’re living a hand-to-mouth existence, your capacity to see beyond the next meal is probably very limited – it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, there are plenty of examples of people in very poor circumstances who have made their environments better, who look after animals or people even less well off than them – it just means they’re less likely to be able to do so.
Conversely, just because someone lives in an expensive house, has plenty of food on the table and money in the bank, it doesn’t automatically follow that they’re going to be good at giving.
Based on that, you would assume there’s a correlation between developed western nations and the amount they give compared to less developed nations – but you might be surprised. In the 2017 Global Giving Report, which measured: helping a stranger, donating money and volunteering.
1) Myanmar (for the fourth year running) – perhaps due to the prevalence of small, frequent acts of giving in support of those living a monastic lifestyle.
4) New Zealand
But back to giving from an individual context.
Research suggests that the good feelings we get from volunteering is a normal response to helping others. The success of our species lies in our ability to collaborate, to ensure the survival of the group as a whole so we have evolved to cooperate – we’re hardwired to help our fellow humans (and that extends to other animal species and the environment).
When we work together we release oxytocin, the hormone of love and friendship, particularly associated with family (when a mother gives birth) and friends – and it’s also associated with feelings of tranquillity or inner peace, which is something that makes us feel good, especially in this fast-paced world.
So, when work colleagues volunteer in a common cause to raise money or awareness, or to help, they form bonds that strengthen the team as a whole. The act of giving causes the brain’s pleasure centre to light up and release oxytocin, increasing levels by up to 50% – creating a warm glow.
There are numerous ways organisations can get involved with giving, including:
Local environment clean-ups
Entering a team into a race
Sponsoring an event
Match sponsoring your employees (for every £1 they raise, the company matches it)
Holding cake sales
Working with local community groups
Giving time, equipment, space
Donating % of turnover
Whatever you do, it’s a win/win for everyone – your business benefits from employee engagement and raised group collaboration, the charity or organisation you support benefits, your brand benefits from being associated with good deeds.