Joy of Giving: A Prescription for Better Health

Our prescription to improved physical and mental health may be possible by participating in one selfless act – giving. Let us not rehash it too much. We all know what we have collectively been through these last few weeks, months and years. In addition to other challenges life throws our way, our recovery will take time. How we choose to spend our time and money may just be the key. Our prescription to improved physical and mental health may be possible by participating in one selfless act – giving.

The concept of giving is not new. It goes back centuries throughout human civilization that it is better to give than it is to receive. Giving has been a special part of all nations, cultures and societies. It is fundamental to human behavior. Like food and shelter, giving is a need. We feel joy when we give because we are fulfilling our human need to do so. On the other hand, if we are not giving, we are not experiencing this joy.

The Healing Power of Giving

In the world of psychology and psychiatry, an emerging field is called social prescribing. Many doctors are now prescribing giving, finding it is as good for you as eating healthy and exercising. Giving time through volunteering or donating socially embeds you to your community. Being connected can help relieve loneliness and improve quality of life. This is especially good for older adults. When seniors’ roles change (retirement, empty nest, loss), they need something that is positive and connecting.

Many people believe that if they had more time and money, their lives would be better. In fact, scientific research finds that giving away our time and money is beneficial. Consistently, when people give, they increase their happiness, resulting in long lasting effects observable by others. Benefits of giving occur throughout our lives even in challenging times or traumatic circumstances. Philanthropic behaviors help to protect us from some of the stresses in our life. Giving is not magic. It does not make all the terrible things go away, but it does help us cope and build our resiliency.

Physical Benefits

Just like any healthy habit, giving may become engrained into your life. Keep your mind open to the many ways to give. These can include time, treasure, and talent. Consider to whom you can give. These can include friends, family, community. Being aware of our giving habits will reinforce our feelings of joy. In fact, just sitting and remembering times that you gave makes you feel good. It is a natural reinforcing cycle to give you a boost of joy when you need it. As you experience joy as a giver, you also spread joy to the receiver.

Physically, giving positively affects core physiological and health outcomes. These include the brain, the cardiovascular system, and pain perception, culminating in increased longevity among givers. One of the joys of giving is that it can span generations. The joy of giving can be passed on from one family member to the next. As we age, we start to feel the joy of giving more. It becomes a more meaningful part of our life.

We need to give. As we work to build back our community, I invite you to be part of the solution by supporting those who are making a difference. Your caring contribution will not only give you joy, but it will help Lee Health Foundation provide critical resources, equipment and supplies to hospitals and medical clinics, particularly in key areas such as heart, cancer, mental health and children’s services. You will also be helping healthcare heroes who are personally dealing with Hurricane Ian’s destruction in their daily lives.

About the Author

Anne Frazier is a Senior Director of Development at Lee Health Foundation. She is an experienced executive professional with more than 25 years building relationships, strategic partnerships and teaching the joy of giving within local and global communities. If health care is your passion, learn how you can find joy in supporting innovative and lifesaving health care services while improving your own physical and mental health in Southwest Florida by contacting Anne.Frazier@LeeHealth.org.