The Power of Giving, Compassion and Hope

Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education
Friday, April 29, 2011, 7:00pm

The giver’s glow. The helper’s high. These are just a couple of the terms used to describe the phenomenon of the positive reaction we have when we decide to help others.

Dr. Stephen Post has been researching this phenomenon for the better part of the last two decades and he shared some of his insights on April 29 during The Power of Giving, Compassion and Hope.

The idea is not a new one, says Dr. Post. It’s been around for thousands of years in many different faith traditions. He quoted Proverbs, in which it reads, “Those who enrich others, will be enriched.”

More recently, the Dalai Lama has said, “If you want to help others, practice compassion. If you want to help yourself, practice compassion”.

And it’s not just the spiritual world that supports this notion. Dr. Post provided scientific studies to support the claim that we actually benefit physically from helping others.

Volunteerism has been shown to lower stress levels, ease depression and alleviate the body’s aches and pains. More specifically, contributing to a community has been proven to significantly increase people’s ability to deal with addiction and bereavement.

How does it happen? Dr. Post says there’s still a lot to be learned in this regard, but fMRI scans have shown that when we make a donation, our dopamine levels actually increase. In some cases, serotonin, or the “happiness hormone”, is also produced.

Does it matter how we give to others? Dr. Post recommends that if we are going to help others, in order to get the most out of it, we should find something that gives us meaning. The giver’s glow is heightened if there is a sense of importance to your actions. We should also draw on our strengths, giving in areas where we might have the most impact.

If you’d like to learn more about the “Gift of Giving”, check out the audio or video podcast below.

 

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