Scientific studies have been published in the past few years that suggest that helping others benefits the giver more than the receiver. That right! You officially have no excuse not to help out a fellow human being. One such study entitled, “The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity,” was published in February of 2016 and from Psychomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine. The lead researchers were Naomi Eisenberger, Ph.D., of University of California, Los Angeles, and Tristan Inagaki, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh.
The two used fMRI brain imaging, and asked participants about situations in which they were either giving or receiving support. They were trying to pinpoint three specific benefits of giving social support on a neurobiological level and what specific parts of the brain were affected. What they discovered was remarkable! Giving support had far greater benefits in the brain compared to receiving. Which I found extremely reassuring. Especially in today’s dived society, that is often driven by Machiavellian behavior.
Isn’t it nice to know that our brains have evolved to be rewarded more for acts of kindness rather that selfishness and spite. I don’t know about you, but I hate turning on the news these days. This channel is saying “Fuck President Trump” and the other saying the same about democrats. Its overwhelming. However, helping others provides a meaningful distraction and improves your brain. Who wouldn’t want that? Nonetheless, lets get back to the benefits to our brains. Researchers Inagaki and Eisenburger concluded that providing social support:
1) Reduces stress-related activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, right anterior insula and right amygdala.
2) Increased care-giving related activity in septal area.
3) Increased reward-related activity in left and right ventral striatum.
Although these specific parts of our brains are confusing and hard to remember, what is important to remember is that these areas were activated, as shown on the fMRI scans, only when participants were providing support, but not when receiving support. One such example could be seen when the researchers had a participant help another participant with a stressful math problem. The one helping with the problem had reduced activation in areas of his brain relating to stress responses. While the one being helped didn’t show such activation. Therefore, we can now say that helping others benefits yourself to a far greater degree on a neurobiological level.
Now, if improving you brain isn’t a good enough reason to get off your ass and help someone out, consider these three extra benefits:
1) Helping Others Improves Longevity
Want to live longer? Try volunteering or giving someone a hand. Research conducted on several thousand volunteers found that volunteering can add years to your life. Those studied were able to deal with stress better, had reduced rtes of depression, increased sense of purpose and life satisfaction, as well as an improved ability to stave off disease. Researchers believe this is linked to the increased social interaction as a result of the volunteer work, that lowers loneliness and enhances our lives.
2) It Will Make Us Happier
After a team of sociologist tracked a group of 2,000 people of the course of five years, those who described themselves as “very happy” had volunteered an average of 5.8 hours per month. Along with the neurobiological reward that comes from volunteer work, researchers also attribute the results to increased physical activity as well as social interaction.
3) The Reciprocation Effect
To put it simply, helping others is contagious. A recent study affirmed this when they published their findings that people are more likely to commit acts of kindness after witnessing someone else do the same. We have all seen clips from the new recently of the ‘Pay It Forward’ movement. Such as the McDonalds drive thru story, in which people paid for one another’s meal over 300 times in a row. For that simple reason, you might as well and try to start a chain of good fortune.
All in all, I think that I have made my point that helping others and volunteering your time and money not only makes the world better, it also makes you better! Which is backed by the latest scientific research. Starting today, do your best to attempt to make someone else’s day better. And watch as you get a boost of happiness, improve you personal health, and gain more purpose in your life! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends by clicking above and by commenting down below.