What is it that makes gifts so special? First, think less of the gift itself and more the act of giving. Being generous makes both the donor and the receiver feel good – and that buzz encourages both to do more of the same with other people.
It shouldn’t be surprising that altruism and biology are related, connected to feel-good chemicals like endorphins and oxytocin. What is surprising is just how powerful an effect generosity can have. Several studies have shown the positive impact on blood pressure and longevity that getting involved in voluntary work has on older people recovering from illness.
We are social creatures, and we have the keys for useful conduct built into us. What feels good, is good. We know that when we’re children, more or less, but often along the way we lose sight of the truth that benevolence and gratitude and right action are connected.
Giving is such a simple joyful thing to do, and one that we can all participate in. It doesn’t have to be about the monetary value of what we give. Spending time with someone we don’t see often enough, especially if they’re older or spend a lot of time alone, can be transformative. Sharing a meal with others can be a joyous experience.
It says something about how society has developed that we even need reminders of such simple truths. Putting more attention on opportunities for kindness is its own form of direct action, a way to indicate that we care – enough to act, and to inspire others to care in turn.
In this issue we are embracing charity, reporting on Sports Relief, Comic Relief’s new initiative, and the annual Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, both of which raised significant funds for brilliant causes.
There’s a contagious element to giving. Start with small kind acts yourself, and you can start a ripple effect that hundreds are touched by and participate in. And at a bigger level, that’s the impetus that leads to the formation of charities, and fund-raising events.
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