How does Generosity Benefit Mental Health & Wellness?

By Amanda Kronen Grant, LCSW

Clinical Director at The Charlton School

Our community at the Charlton School focuses on wellness topics throughout the year. Over the last few years, the focus has shifted to how adhering to wellness principles allows people to actually feel joy, connect with others, and make a significant contribution to the greater community. Throughout these dialogues, the concept of generosity has gained traction and is proving to be an essential component of our work. With the holiday season far behind us, it's important to consider generosity and how it affects us all if we continue to value its characteristics.

Many studies have shown that generosity has a favorable impact on the donor. Recent studies have found a correlation between generosity and happiness in general. According to one study, those who volunteered reported greater quality of life. Other studies have found that “frequent helpers reported feeling greater vitality and self-esteem (but only if they chose to help of their own accord).” Summer Allen, PhD, a Research/Writing Fellow with the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, writes that “Generosity appears to have especially strong associations with psychological health and well-being.” Even small acts of kindness, Allen writes, “like picking up something someone else has dropped, make people feel happy.” She continues:

  • There are several intrapersonal factors that can influence generosity. Feelings of empathy, compassion, and other emotions can motivate us to help others. Certain personality traits, such as humility and agreeableness, are associated with increased generosity, and a person’s tendency to engage in prosocial behavior may be considered a personality trait in itself. A person’s values, morals, and sense of identity can also modify how willingly they engage in generous acts.

For many people, generosity inspires them to give. The offering of gifts, such as time, attention, or participation in a shared activity. The reciprocal interaction is what gives these deeds their worth. The feeling of contributing something to someone else and the sharing of emotion that occurs with interpersonal engagement. When related to a real thing, it is extremely simple to participate in these decisions or to teach acts of generosity within current relationships and known contexts. It is much more difficult to be generous to oneself or to live in charity toward the unknown.

To fully live in wellness, you must be generous with your intent, spirit, and thoughts. The intangible aspects of generosity become extremely strong change agents and contribute to overall happiness. In reality, generosity should entail being patient with assumptions, forgiving generously, and speaking thoughtfully. It is motivated by compassion and founded on empathy, and it requires each of us to make conscious decisions and take responsibility for our actions. Generosity, when seen as a whole, invites community, and The Charlton School is, at its core, a community.


The Science of Generosity

Tools For Supporting Emotional Well Being In Children And Youth

Generosity Boosts Well-Being By Tuning Down The Brain's Anxiety Center, Research Suggests

The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support

How Helping Others Can Help You

University of Notre Dame

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