The Science of Giving: Helping Yourself By Helping Others

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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to go out of their way to help others?

We all know at least one person who is always genuinely happy to go out of their own way to help and support others in any way they can.

And the more they give, it seems, the happier they are.

But there might be a very simple explanation for this generous behavior…

According to researcher Lara B. Aknin, of the University of British Columbia:

From an evolutionary perspective, the emotional rewards that people experience when they help others may serve as a proximate mechanism that evolved to facilitate prosocial behavior, which may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history.

people experience emotional benefits from sharing their financial resources with others not only in countries where such resources are plentiful, but also in impoverished countries where scarcity might seem to limit the possibilities to reap the gains from giving to others.

Helping others has also been shown by numerous studies to release endorphin and activate our brain’s reward and pleasure region, making us feel good about ourselves whenever we do something good for others.

While the most cynical of us can see this as a sign that generosity isn’t such a selfless act and more of an evolutionary trait – the reality of it remains.

Helping others not only contributes to making the world a better place but can also improve our mood, reduce stress levels and make our own life more enjoyable.

While it is important to use judgement and not over-extend yourself, you might want to make a habit of giving some of your time or money to those who need it, either directly or through a charitable organization.

And next time you’re having a bad day or are feeling stressed out, why not turn things around by doing something selfless for a friend or a stranger 🙂

This entry was inspired by a story published on the ReWire Me blog.

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Ben Baker is the communication officer and content editor for the team here at Science of Zen. His interest in personal growth topics range from mindfulness, meditation, neuroscience, performance psychology and natural health.