A 2008 Harvard study found that giving money to someone else instead of spending it on ourselves lifted participants’ happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside observed similar outcomes when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.
Another study in 2006 conducted by Jorge Moll and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health concluded that when people give to charity, it activated the regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure, trust, and social connection. This was backed by researchers at Stony Brook University, as they found that generosity released several chemicals in the brain causing inner joy and tranquility. This phenomenon was termed as ‘giver’s glow.’
Giving activates the reward circuitry in our brains. Scientists believe that philanthropy and altruistic behavior causes the release of happiness chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, producing a positive feeling called ‘helper’s high’. Hence, happiness gets reflected in our biology and lights us up.