Patrick looked with awe at the chocolate iced donut. Was it all just for him? His immediate response was to break it in two pieces – half for Lani, his much-adored older sister, and half for him. He was quickly reassured that Elena had already eaten her donut while he was having an afternoon nap and that it was all for him. He quickly complied by gobbling it down with sheer delight.
Did you know that people are innately generous? A new study published in the journal Nature finds that when people have to make the choice instantly, their first impulse is cooperation and generosity. Only when they have more time to consider their choice do they behave more selfishly. And this goes for adults too, not just children. The study concludes that generosity is the intuitive human response.
Generosity and sharing give us such a buzz, whether it’s shouting for a meal for friends or family, offering a lift or the use of your trailer to a neighbour, or donating to a worthwhile charity. Psychologist, Liz Dunn reckons she’s found a possible link between generosity and physical health. Apparently holding on tight to our money, whether justified or not by financial hardship, causes stress and our cortisol levels rise in direct relation to our penny-pinching.
In 2010 Stephen Post, bioethics professor and Live Well Survey founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, headed a study into the effect of giving on our health. Here’s what they found: 68% of those who volunteered in the past year reported volunteering made them feel physically healthier; 89% reported “Volunteering has improved my sense of well-being” and 92% agreed that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.
Apparently, qualities like gratitude, celebration, forgiveness and compassion are not only good for the recipients of your generosity – they’re good for you too, leading to better health and longer life.
What brought me through a bout with depression and illness was a desire to help others. I found a niche in a church based on democratic principles and where I was welcomed and encouraged to participate in whatever capacity I was ready to fill and to which I could dedicate time. This led to a much better self-image as I gave of my time willingly, while gaining a new spiritual viewpoint of my relationship to God and to others. The new-found confidence and abilities opened up opportunities in my personal life as well, and healed much of the negative self-talk that was holding me back. You could say that a childlike inclination to be generous was regained, and I was born again – physically, mentally, emotionally!
This is a great time in history as clinical research is confirming what deep thinkers throughout history and representing all world religions have been affirming, that when we regain that intuitive generous nature, everything from life-satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly affected.
Kay Stroud is a health blogger interested in the connection between our thoughts and our wellbeing. She’s also the spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern Australia.