Improving social connection and relationships through generosity
Year after year, more studies are highlighting the benefits of generosity on both our physical and mental health. Not only does generosity reduce stress, support physical health, enhance sense of purpose, and naturally fight depression, it is also shown to increase one’s lifespan.
If a longer, less stressful and more meaningful life is not enough to inspire your practice of generosity, consider that generosity also promotes a social connection and improves relationships. According to Jason Marsh and Jill Suttie of the Greater Good Science Center, “When we give to others, we not only make them feel closer to us, we also feel closer to them.” This is because being generous and kind encourages us to perceive others in a more positive light and fosters a sense of community, a feeling of interconnectedness.
Being generous also makes us feel better about ourselves. Generosity is both a natural confidence builder and a natural repellent of self-hatred. By focusing on what we are giving rather than on what we are receiving, we create a more outward orientation toward the world, which shifts our focus away from ourselves. While maintaining a healthy level of self-awareness and sensitivity to oneself is important, too often we narrow in on ourselves with a negative lens.
There is still not a strong case on how much people should spend on others to enjoy long-lasting health benefits. Indeed, research suggests that the positive benefits of new circumstances can disappear quickly. Thus, to sustain the health benefits of financial generosity, it might be necessary to engage in novel acts of generosity other than financially, while prioritising people that you are closest to.
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
To recap, studies have found strong links between Generosity and the below benefits:
- Reduces stress
- Supports physical health
- Enhances sense of purpose
- Naturally fights depression
- Increases one’s lifespan
- Promotes a social connection and improves relationships
- Fosters a sense of community
- Perceive others in a more positive light
- Feeling of interconnectedness
- Makes us feel better about ourselves
- Natural repellent of self-hatred
Note: Being generous doesn’t mean giving money away. It’s important to remember financial generosity is only beneficial when it does not lead to overwhelming personal costs. You can engage in novel acts of generosity other than financially with similar health benefits.
– Louise F. Pendry L, Salvatore J. Individual and social benefits of online discussion forums. Computers in Human Behavior Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 211–220. Read more.
– Tajfel, J.C.Turner. An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 74 (1979), pp. 33–47N.
– Ellemers, R.Spears, B.Doosje. Self and social identity. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1) (2002), pp. 161–186J.
– Dimmick, S.Kline, L.Stafford. The gratification niches of personal email and the telephone: Competition, displacement and complementarity. Communication Research, 27 (2) (2000), pp. 227–248
– S.A.Haslam, S.Reicher. Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91 (5) (2006), p. 1037. Read more
Discover more studies linking generosity to good health and longevity
Part three of volume three “The Why’s of Goodness” looks at the health benefits stemmed from being generous. This is supported by many studies and test cases, and is not just linked to financial generosity but from volunteering and reaching out to people that need it most. Read more on Volume 3.
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