As charities, we often talk about how your generosity benefits the people we serve.
But did you know about the benefits of generosity for your personal life, too? We’re talking about real, concrete benefits. Ones that impact every part of you!
Let’s take a look at 6 surprising benefits of generosity.
1. Generosity makes you happier.
Everybody is searching for happiness. And the messages all around us try to tell us how we can find it. We see it on our Instagram feeds: Buy this skin product, and you will be happy. We see it in movies: Find the perfect relationship, and you will be happy. It’s all over billboards on our morning commutes: Go to this sunny destination, and you will be happy.
The search for happiness is everywhere! And the message we’re receiving is loud and clear: it’s all about us getting more.
But recent studies have found just the opposite.
In a study called The Science of Generosity by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, researchers conclude that giving significantly impacts a person’s overall health psychologically. It even suggests that those who give are happier.
“Many studies investigating the link between generosity and psychological well-being have zeroed in on happiness specifically. While popular culture may imply that happiness comes from focusing on yourself, research suggests the opposite: Being generous can make you happier,” it says.
When we give, our body releases feel-good hormones like endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin.
2. Generosity causes you to be less stressed.
For many of us, the thought of giving away hard-earned, budgeted money can cause immense stress. We may doubt our urges to be generous in light of fear-based questions floating in our heads: What if I don’t have enough for my family? For myself? For my future?
The irony is tangible in the results of recent studies that have found something surprising. One of the benefits of generosity and kindness is that it can actually cause our stress to melt away.
One study suggests that gift-giving or volunteering can reduce levels of cortisol—the stress hormone that leaves us feeling anxious.
In another study by the Clinical Psychological Science journal, a total of 77 adults—ages 18 to 44—participated in a daily questionnaire. They were asked to list the stressful elements of their day. Then, they were asked to record any helpful behaviours or acts of kindness they did and the emotions they felt when doing them.
The results? Researchers found that those who recorded more daily acts of kindness were less likely to feel stress. When they couldn’t complete their acts of kindness, they recorded more negativity and stress.
3. Generosity helps you stay physically healthy.
Everybody wants to stay healthy. We try to eat right, stay active and get that perfect ergonomic desk set-up. But did you know that giving is actually proven to keep you healthy, too?
In the same study, The Science of Generosity researchers found that those giving social support—like money, time, effort or goods—had better overall health. This was measured by a survey that measured participants’ blood pressure, sleep quality, hearing and other conditions.
Psychiatrist Kelli Harding, MD, MPH, shares even more ways generosity can keep you healthy.
“It boosts our mood, self-esteem and our immune system. It also reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure. The associated feel-good chemicals can help reduce aches and pains and help us sleep better, too,” she shares.
4. Generosity strengthens your interpersonal relationships—like your marriage and friendships.
Perhaps not as surprising, being generous is connected to healthier relationships. When we give of ourselves to others in sacrificial ways, the foundation of the relationships we hold dear becomes even stronger.
In a study done by Utah State University, it was found that spouses with high amounts of generosity reported higher levels of happiness in their marriage compared to those with lower amounts.
This relational generosity also leaves less space for a build-up of resentment and anger.
“When relationships do not involve [this kind of] free giving, it leaves room for bitterness, miscommunication and frustration,” says another article. “Taking the time and initiative to incorporate generosity into your relationship will strengthen it.”
Inevitably, when we give to another person, we feel closer to them. They have the experience of feeling seen and known, and we have the experience of witnessing their happiness.
“When we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them,” says Jason Marsh and Jill Suttie of the Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley.
“This is because being generous and kind encourages us to perceive others in a more positive light and fosters a sense of community, a feeling of interconnectedness.”
5. Generosity can help you live longer.
You read that right. Many studies have found that longer life expectancy is another one of the benefits of generosity!
One study looked at health and lifestyles of older married couples. Couples were asked how much of their time was spent helping others, and whether or not they had recently experienced stressful life events. Their risk of dying was then tracked for a five-year period.
The conclusion was that those who had experienced stressful events had a higher risk of death. In contrast, those who experienced stressful life events and spent time helping others did not have a higher risk of death.
Another study published by the PNAS looked at 34 different countries, assessing how their resources were redistributed. The findings? Countries with the lowest mortality rates had the average citizen sharing between 68 and 69 per cent of their lifetime income. Incredible!
“Volunteering provides many older people with a deep sense of meaning,” says Patricia Boyle, a Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center neuropsychologist. “Working toward a goal and feeling like you are making a contribution to society likely increases your sense of purpose in life, which we have found contributes to both psychological and physical health.”
6. Generosity will draw you closer to Jesus.
As Jesus followers, the studies above may not surprise us. After all, our call to generosity is all over the Bible. What a gift from God to create an act that would so beautifully benefit everyone—the giver and the receiver!
We find the call to generosity especially potent in Jesus’ teachings. To Him, generosity is not just a nice thing to do if you can squeeze it in. It’s central to living out our lives as His followers. To Him, generosity is a storehouse of blessings waiting to be poured out.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Did you know that scholars estimate that about 25 per cent of Jesus’ teachings were about money and generosity? Why is that?
Author and teacher John Mark Comer believes that more than anything, Jesus’ teachings on money and generosity seem to focus on forming our hearts.
“It seems that for Jesus, money was about so much more than money. It was about the interior architecture of the heart,” he says.
“Money could become an open door in your heart for your formation into a person who is pervaded by the love, joy and peace of Jesus.”
Jesus’ upside teachings seem to say that if we idolize what we have, we are missing out on the potent flavours of the Spirit’s fruits—the savouriness of joy, the sweetness of peace and the zestiness of kindness.
When we spend our lives for the good of others (Philippians 2:3), we are walking in step with the Spirit. We are actively pursuing the life Jesus called us to live—loving God and loving others (Matt. 22:37-40) and bearing witness to His goodness to those around us.
When we live how Jesus calls us to live, we will inevitably be closer to the heart of God. We will be people filled up to overflow (Romans 15:13). And isn’t that just what we want of our lives?