Did you know that charitable giving and helping others can have an amazing impact on our mental health?
If I tell you honestly, I had some vague notion of charity giving you peace and an eye-opening nudge to show you how so many people are suffering… and we are in the position of helping them…
I could write about what I knew or felt, but I thought about running some research to see what psychologists say about it.
The information I came across was surprising… and somehow heartwarming.
Charity is more than just us helping others. It is something that helps us in return, too.
Other than our personal religious beliefs and the rewards we expect from God in the Hereafter, giving has some incredible psychological benefits.
Before sharing more details, let me start by saying that, in general, kindness and charity give us peace by:
- Lowering the chances of depression and anxiety
- Encouraging positive mindset
- Giving us a feeling of reward
- Giving a sense of purpose, direction, and self-worth
- Boosting self-confidence
- Creating a connection with humanity at large
- And, building a strong, healthy society
These are just some major points. Let us look into the benefits in detail and how and why it impacts our mental health.
Feeling of happiness
We cannot buy happiness. It comes naturally.
Reaching out to others and helping them induces a sense of happiness and satisfaction in the giver. That is nature’s way of an immediate reward.
While looking up the psychology behind charity, I came across a very interesting piece of information.
Our brains have pleasure circuits which get activated when we do something that gives you happiness or pleasure. Our brains tend to always be in pursuit of pleasure. Think about your favorite brownies or cheesy pizzas… yes, you felt that fascination? That happens when your pleasure circuits get activated.
And, an amazing fact is that charity activates these centers, too.
The act of giving to the needy, – or even heartfelt gifts to your loved ones – makes you feel happiness.*
Psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, shared a personal incident to explain these facts: “I can recall giving my daughter a dollar to buy a gift for us during the holidays in elementary school. When she returned home, she couldn’t wait to give us the gift she picked out. In fact, she insisted we open it immediately.” *
Lowered risk of depression
Kindness is a candle which lights up the lives of all those we help – while casting a warm glow on our lives.
Giving helps lower our risks of depression and depressive symptoms of grief, such as sadness and lethargy.
This may be connected to the previous point. The feelings of happiness and positivity help keep depression at bay, or lessen the symptoms of grief.
A research study involving older adults showed that those who cared for their loved ones were less likely to fall prey to depression.
Another study was conducted on people who had lost a spouse and were processing their grief. Those from this group engaged themselves in acts of giving and kindness, recovered faster from the depressive symptoms occurring due to grief.*
Greater life satisfaction and lowered anxiety levels
Here, let’s talk about a study conducted by Pradnya Surana and Tim Loras from Harvard University.
(You can check the complete paper here. I will summarize it for you in this write-up.)
This study included males and females ranging in age from 24 and 59, divided in two groups.
One group was to spend money on themselves, while the other group was supposed to give away their money.
They were analyzed after 3 days. The participants who gave away their money experienced significant improvement in their self-esteem, satisfaction towards life, and overall well-being.
Also, while the group who spent on themselves experienced an increase in their money-related anxiety levels, the charity-giving group did not undergo any such hike in anxiety levels.
I have mentioned only one research study here. There have been many. And, all of them show pretty much the same results.
When we reach out to others to help them, we naturally get the feeling of goodness and get a sense of purpose in life. The feeling that we have contributed to bringing a positive change in someone’s life is priceless.
The trend of charitable giving promotes a healthy society in three ways.
- Supporting those in need helps them achieve a better position in society, and in some cases, this support can change their lives for good.
- The positive mindsets and greater life satisfaction help build a society of emotionally secure and mentally healthy individuals and help reduce the ratio of mental health issues and related offences.
- Helping each other reinforces positive social interactions, where every person shows empathy and compassion.
Helping Others Helps Us, Too…
But, There Is A Catch!
Helping others through charity and volunteering to get sadaqah jariyah is great for our mental health…
But, there is a condition.
If we help others with the motive of improving our mental health, it does not work.
It is the true essence of charity, volunteering, and helping others that give psychological and health benefits.
It is our selfless acts and the willingness to help others that bring deep satisfaction and inner peace.
Wish you all a peaceful life,
Your Friend at Ek Plate Biryani