HOUSTON — The old adage goes, "it’s better to give than to receive."
Doctors at Memorial Hermann Health System are now confirming that’s not just a saying, but there’s scientific research that proves giving can actually improve a person’s health.
“It is true and here’s the cool evidence of how it works in our bodies,” said Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson. She’s the Vice-President of Employee Health Medical Operations for Memorial Hermann. “There’s physical benefits and there’s also mental benefits.”
Not all giving is the same. Research shows there’s a difference between feeling obligated to give, which can actually induce stress, and wanting to give.
Wanting to give or having the genuine desire to give, “can reduce stress and anxiety. It actually lowers blood pressure and your heart rate. So it really has a calming effect,” Macaluso Davidson said.
The physical and psychological benefits happen as the endorphins and "happy" hormones are released through your body and brain.
“They’re produced and they have lingering impacts on the brain. So even after three months, they’re seeing these positive impacts on our brain. Which is really just fascinating and awesome,” Macaluso Davidson said.
Basically, it’s that other adage: "as you think, therefore you are."
“These hormones that are released, they can help free us up so we actually cognitively are even thinking at a higher level or more creatively,” Macaluso Davidson said.
OK, so giving helps us feel better. But what point of giving, specifically? Is it the shopping or creation of something that releases those positive hormones or is it the actual physical act of giving something to someone?
“I would probably say a little bit of both. So the thought behind it, thinking of others, that’s part of it,” Macaluso Davidson said.
Macaluso Davidson said studies show that the price of the gift does not matter. It’s literally the act of giving that sparks the health benefits. This is why so many of us probably feel special and happy during the holidays.
“Absolutely, yes. And they even talked about it being like a ‘giver’s high’ just because of all these happy hormones that are released in the process,” Macaluso Davidson said.
If giving is good for our health, is kindness contagious?
“A more science term is called ‘pro-social behavior.’ But it’s kindness,” Macaluso Davidson said. “So you’re being kind to others. It’s fun to receive and then you kind of want to carry it forward. So it does kind of have these ripple effects as well.”
To provide for children in need of toys this Christmas, consider checking out the KHOU 11 Secret Santa Toy Drive.