The Science Behind Giving Back

Give (v.) – to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.

People always talk about giving back during the holidays–‘tis the season of giving and being thankful, right? Well, yes! While supporting our community isn’t reserved solely for the holiday season, this is the time we are needed even more. Not only is giving back good for our community, it’s also good for our brains. For example, when you give your family member or friend a gift you know they’ll love, you’re equally (if not more) excited about their reaction to that gift. You feel good knowing they love and appreciate the gift you’ve thoughtfully given them.

In 2006, Jorge Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health, used brain imaging and moral-based questions to determine the natural response to selfish and selfless acts. Through this experiment, they discovered the human brain reacts the same way to selfless giving as it does to food. This primitive part of the brain lighting up is essentially a pleasure response, making the act of giving a fundamental piece to the foundation of our being. We are creatures who are meant to do for others what they cannot do for themselves.

Although it’s in our nature to feel good when we give back, this chemical reaction should not be the only reason we chase serving others. Once we start helping the community for our benefit, our desire to do good turns selfish. To combat a selfish and prideful nature, find an area within the community you’re passionate to serve. If you love art, look for volunteer opportunities to teach painting, drawing, or clay to people in the county. If you’re passionate about the literacy rate of those around you, reach out to your local schools/libraries for information on how you can serve the need. As Georgia citizens, agriculture is a major component of our state yet many people don’t know the importance it serves. If your life’s focus involves agriculture, find areas to plant community gardens and teach citizens about farm to table nutritions.

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