Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why Giving Makes You Happy

Turns out compassion is good for your health. Who knew (other than saints, contemplatives and social workers)? But now it's being confirmed by science. Apparently, it is an established fact that 'givers are happier people than non-givers.' From the article:

A number of studies have researched exactly why charity leads to happiness. The surprising conclusion is that giving affects our brain chemistry...Charity also lowers the stress hormones that cause unhappiness...The bottom line from all the research on giving is that it is not just good for your favorite cause; it's good for you, too. For relief from stress and depression, it's probably more cost-effective than whatever your doctor might prescribe.

Now, if you're one of those cynical Scrooge types who doubt that you can ever clear away the mental black clouds you've made friends with all these years, consider the just-emerging discoveries in neural plasticity: among these, not only can you grow new brain cells, but how you think affects brain structure! It's fascinating stuff (I'm immersed in Train your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves).

Of course, if you're motivated purely by economics, consider that you still have time to make a tax-deductible charitable contribution for 2007. That way you can also reap the health benefits in 2008 (we all have at least one health related New Year's resolution each January 1st). So, write that check happier tomorrow!