By Ginny Mitchell, Resource Development Director at United Way of Salt Lake
We all know that giving money to help others is a good thing to do, but did you know that generosity can have equal benefits on ourselves?
Giving can be just as good for us as it is for those in need. Here are the top five reasons why giving is good for you:
1. Giving makes you happy, according to science
The pleasure systems in our brain are activated when supporting others. When researchers from the National Institutes of Health looked at the MRIs of subjects who gave to various nonprofit organizations and charities, they found that giving stimulates the reward center in the brain — releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the “helper’s high.”
During gift-giving behaviors, humans secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical). These biological processes create the “warm fuzzies” we feel when we donate money.
2. Giving has positive long term physical health effects
When surveying the correlation between charitable giving and the overall health of households, Economic Professor Baris Yörük found that those households that gave more to charity had notably lower probability of high blood pressure, cancer, and heart attack.
Stress is known to be a catalyst for many health issues, mainly because the body responds to stressful situations by releasing “fight or flight” hormones into the blood. Many of the physical benefits of altruism are likely related to the resulting reduction in stress.
It’s not surprising that when done over long periods, giving actively reduces exposure to stress hormones and strengthens immunity resulting in longer, healthier lives. In these cases, the health benefits of giving has been equated to that of avoiding obesity and smoking.
3. Giving creates leadership opportunities
Research by Sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer suggests that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.
A culture of reciprocity is created when we donate our personal resources to something beyond ourselves and enables the giver to stand out as a role model for their peers. Many of the Young Leaders Donor Network members who have been involved on committees or boards receive a boost in business or career opportunities.
4. Giving can help us find meaning and purpose in our lives
When you donate money to nonprofits, you create opportunities to meet new like-minded individuals who believe in the same causes that inspire you. That, and making a real impact on those causes, can infuse your everyday life with more meaning.
If you’ve been stuck in a rut, whether personally or professionally, sometimes the simple act of donating cash can do the trick and reinvigorate your life.
5. Giving actually makes a difference
As a good rule of thumb, the emotional rewards of giving goes as far as we can appreciate the impact it has.
The generosity of UWSL donors helps fuel our efforts in schools, across communities, and at the State Capitol to make sure every child, regardless of their race or neighborhood where they live, can access high-quality education to help them succeed.
Here are some big wins we’ve accomplished with their support:
- In South Salt Lake, where a significant number of parents speak a language other than English, more 0- to 5-year-old children are developmentally on track – thanks, in part, to UWSL’s grassroots initiative to engage parents of young children. Read the blog, Helping Parents Gauge a Child’s Development, to learn more.
- 3rd Grade Language Arts Proficiency has increased in Title I community schools, where UWSL works to help implement a multi-tiered strategic approach to early grade reading, including dyad reading methods, teacher development, and continuous improvement processes. Read the blog, Partner Reading is Giving Struggling Students a Chance to Succeed, to learn more.
- Cottonwood High School’s graduation rate outperformed most schools in Granite District, despite being more impacted by poverty. Leaders attribute the success to UWSL’s strategic partnership and interventions. Read the blog, More Students are Graduating From Cottonwood High With The Help of United Way, to learn more.
Do a little good for others and yourself by giving to United Way of Salt Lake today at uw.org/donate.