Lina Ashar on Giving and Contributing

A growing body of evidence shows that human beings have evolved to be compassionate and collaborate in our quest to survive and thrive which is contrary to popular belief that humans are hard-wired to be selfish and to compete as though everything was about survival of the fittest.

Science tells us that giving creates more happiness than receiving. research tells us that the notion that giving in any way from your time, talent and treasures is a powerful pathway to finding purpose, transcending difficulties, and finding fulfillment and meaning in life.

According to neuroscience giving allows us to secrete all the chemicals at once (Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin). This fact was tested by Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institute of Health, who scanned the brains of volunteers as they were asked to think about a scenario involving either donating a sum of money to charity or keeping it for themselves. What they looked to examine is where in the brain the impulse to give originates so they could understand why it feels so good to help others. The study asked people to make donations to charities and looked at the resulting brain activity using an MRI. The results demonstrated that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex.

Another research shows that altruism is like a miracle drug. The euphoric feeling, we experience when we help others is what researchers call the “helper’s high,” a term first introduced 20 years ago by wellness expert Allan Luks to explain the powerful physical sensation associated with helping others. Luks looked at the physical effects of giving experienced by more than 1,700 women who volunteered regularly. The studies demonstrated that a full 50 percent of helpers reported feeling “high” when they helped others, while another 43 percent felt stronger and more energetic.

Another study by Alfred Adler, an early 20th-century psychologist, suggests that good mental health is a consequence of our “social interest,” our concern for our fellow human beings. People whose focus is on helping others, not just getting for themselves, are people who are happiest and most fulfilled. People who are generous and thoughtful of others are less anxious, less depressed, and feel more connected with their community.

With the growing body of evidence around the science of giving as parents, we should start working towards inculcating the habit of giving in children right from a young age. However, you need to make your child do good on their own will, do not force your child to give that does not help. On various occasions, it is noticed that children do not like sharing their toys or maybe something that they are attached to and parents coax them to share it, that’s when they develop anxiety. Research has found that when people are forced to do something kind for others, or even subtly coerced to do it through an external reward, they’ll see themselves as less humane and resist helping others in the long run. Studies by Netta Weinstein and Richard Ryan, among others, have found that people feel happier after performing kind, helpful — or “prosocial” — acts only when those acts are voluntary and self-directed; when they feel pressured to help, they feel worse.

So while inculcating the habit of giving, let your child decide how they would like to help others, let them choose the charity they want to associate with. This will make the child believe that it’s a choice they have made, and they would look forward to helping others. This will then become a habit of mind and eventually it will make them feel worthy of existing and being able to help someone in need.