08 Aug, 2021

The Psychology And Physiology Of Giving

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Ad Hoc Gifts
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Written by
Bianca Polizzi
The act of giving has long been known to yield positive benefits not only for the recipient but also the benefactor.

“Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'.” – Martin Luther King Jr

Neuroscientists have determined that we have what is known as ‘pleasure circuits’ - parts of the brain that light up when something makes us feel good. These can be activated by our favorite food, physical enjoyment, emotional fulfillment, recreational drugs (not recommended!) - and of course helping others.

The amazing thing about the mind is that it can have direct and tangible effects on our health. So a positive action such as being generous can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, stress and depression at the same time as boosting self-esteem.

In fact, altruism can literally help you live longer! One major study conducted jointly by the University of Buffalo, Stony Brook University and Grand Valley State University concluded that “those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not helped others”.

Giving can come in many forms - it could be volunteering for or donating to charitable causes, sacrificing time for mentorship, rewarding employees for a job well done or simply surprising a loved one with a gift.

Here’s how you’re doing yourself a favor every time you give to someone else:


Giving triggers ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, which together result in feelings of joy, satisfaction, tranquility, serenity and inner peace. It’s sometimes referred to as a ‘warm glow’ - a physical sensation made all the more powerful by the positive emotions that accompany it.


One of the biggest impacts of giving is that it reduces stress, a condition that is responsible for countless health issues. Scientific studies have proved that giving makes you calmer and more emotionally stable which feeds into multiple mental and physical health benefits.


Giving can start a positive chain reaction, where beneficiaries of generosity pay it forward. Whether it’s at home, at work or on the streets, one kind act can stimulate many more with the end result being a more harmonious environment for everyone. 


Helping others or giving gifts generates goodwill and loyalty. The more that this energy exists in any setting, the more likely it is that it will become intrinsic to a particular group’s culture. However, giving for the sake of getting something in return is not a selfless act so it won’t generate the same positive effects as the spirit of genuine generosity. 

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

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