The warm and fuzzy feeling that arises when helping others is what drives many to donate money or do good for others. Studies show that altruism may actually have profound physiological effects.
Scientists have determined that the feelings of happiness associated with doing good can be traced to a particular pleasure center of the brain that can be viewed and measured with brain scans. There are physical components to doing thoughtful or charitable things, according to a 2008 report in The New York Times.
This bodes well for donations as the recession continues to hit the country in a big way. Individuals who are facing layoffs or pay cuts may still dig deep into their pockets for charitable donations because they seek the high that donating provides.
And it isn't just financial donations that make a person happy. Any type of goodwill toward others is a way to generate the endorphins and mood-boosting properties of altruism. That means there are plenty of opportunities that can boost feelings of happiness.
* Visit seniors in a retirement community or assisted living facility and sit and chat for a while.
* Knock on an elderly neighbor's door and find out if you can help out with any chores around the house.
* Bring a friend breakfast or lunch simply because you were thinking of them and wanted to surprise them.
* Take in the trash cans for your entire street, especially if the weather is nasty.
* Tell a fast-food employee or another hard worker that they're doing a good job. Complaints come easy in the service industry, but praise is often hard to get.
* Volunteer to watch neighborhood children so other mothers and fathers can get a much-needed break.
* Don't ignore a phone solicitation from a charity organization. Get more information and do your best to donate.
* If you practice a religion, go to your house of worship and participate in community togetherness.
* Hold a door, smile at someone or offer to get something down from a tall shelf in a store. It's the little things that can bring pleasure.
* Share something you have with another person who doesn't. That may mean generator-supplied electric power during a power outage, a special snack at school lunch, a tool, a piece of clothing or whatever you can think of.
There are so many ways to give to others, and one of the biggest benefits is the smiles and positive feelings giving provides.