How and why giving to others helps us care for ourselves

When we give to others, we do so for mostly altruistic reasons; out of a desire to help, connect, or offer a little slice of joy. What most of us don’t think about are the benefits that we receive in turn. But we should. 

As a whole raft of studies increasingly show, the simple act of giving is wonderfully good for us, helping increase our levels of happiness, connect more fully with others, and – ultimately - live longer, healthier lives.

Here are four reasons why we should make a year-round practice of giving to others, followed by some insights into what research tells us are the perfect gifts to share, and why the very best gift of all costs absolutely nothing!

Four Benefits of Giving

  1. Giving makes us happier: Anyone who has ever given to another knows that giving makes us happier. It’s something we understand instinctively, and it’s increasingly supported by concrete evidence, with a host of different studies showing that we are generally happier when we spend on others, rather than ourselves. This is because giving is a guilt-free, selfless exercise, helping release ‘feel-good’ endorphins which provide a sense of euphoria, as well as promoting tranquility and a sense of inner peace.  

  1. Giving builds stronger relationships: Giving helps us strengthen our relationships, for the simple reason that it promotes social connection and reinforces our bond with the recipient of our gift. When we give, we are far more likely to receive in turn, and levels of trust and cooperation are enhanced.

  1. Giving makes us healthier: Giving is good for us. It reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, and helps us live longer and better. Research shows it can even help alleviate pain and improve health outcomes for people with chronic pain (c.f. Stephen Post - ‘Why Good Things Happen to Good People’), whilst other studies show that elderly people who give back by volunteering for charities or by providing practical help to friends and family, have a much lower chance of dying within 5 years than people who don’t. 

  1. Giving is contagious (in a good way!!): We’ve talked previously about how random acts of kindness can create a ripple effect and much the same can be said about giving. When we gift a present to others, or give selflessly of ourselves, we encourage others to do so in turn, leading to a ‘flow-on’ effect. This means that your original act of giving can have far reaching and highly positive consequences, leading the recipient of your gift to give to others, who respond in kind by giving to others, who... well, you get the picture!

Choosing a Great Gift

If we consider the act of giving in light of the benefits it can bestow upon us, as well as its recipient, then research tells us that certain types of gifts deliver greater rewards. Ultimately, giving gifts that are specific and personalized resonate more with both the giver and the giftee, than open-ended gifts like a gift card. 

Further, if we know our gift will have a positive impact – that it will be ‘good for’ the recipient – then our own sense of satisfaction and fulfilment is heightened by the giving. This is why we feel so good, for example, about giving to charities, although even here, the rule of specificity versus open-endedness still applies, with studies showing that we feel better when we give to causes with a known outcome (like supplying new water facilities to an impoverished village), as opposed to giving to monolithic charities where it’s not quite so clear how our money will be spent.

The Perfect Gift is Free!

As a final note, it’s important to remember that gifts don’t need to be expensive to deliver all the benefits outlined above. In fact, research shows that the one gift that resonates above all others comes free, at least in terms of any monetary cost.

That gift? It’s the gift of gratitude.

People absolutely love hearing expressions of gratitude (think about it – how do you feel when someone takes the time to let you know what you mean to them?). Telling someone how important they are to you, or writing them a note explaining everything they’ve done for you, is an immensely powerful gift; one that is cherished by the person who receives it and never forgotten.

This blog post was written for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. For individual health concerns, The Organic Skin Co. recommends that you consult with a relevant health professional.