Generosity is one of the great human virtues. It means to give help or support to others without expecting anything in return. It also means going above and beyond what is usual or expected.
Generosity is synonymous with kindness, empathy and all-around good energy. The venerable painter Pablo Picasso once said that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
In my experience, this sentiment is mostly accurate.
So why is generosity important? For both giver and receiver, there are countless benefits in life associated with generosity, from physical to social to emotional.
Let’s get to it!
1) Generosity is good for your mental health
Think about it: when you give to others, you tend to feel good. Generosity is proven to have positive physiological effects on the mind and mental wellbeing.
Generous people seem to be happier and possess a more positive outlook. People who are regularly generous are much less likely to feel constant negative emotions like depression or bouts of paranoia.
Based on the study of researcher Christian Smith, feeling good is a direct byproduct of doing good. This is a quality that is within us as humans, hardwired into our neurochemistry.
Once you make it a habit to give and be generous, expect to release positive bodily chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin. This is true regardless of things like race, class or socioeconomic status, according to a Harvard Business School study.
This rush in turn leads to better overall habits like eating healthier diets and regular exercise.
Which brings us to our next point…
2) Generosity is good for physical health
There’s a real correlation between generosity and physical health. As mentioned, generous people tend to be associated with other constructive habits like healthy diet, better sleep and regular exercise.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, generosity is linked to lower levels of stress and reduced blood pressure, a condition that contributes to millions of deaths each year.
Furthermore, there are studies that suggest that generosity also can successfully combat depression, reduce stress and anxiety levels, lessen the risk of dementia, help with chronic pain management, etc.
My grandmother is one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. Coming from a relatively privileged background, she has dedicated her life to giving back to people more in need than her.
Be it through charities, employees, donations to victims of natural disasters or even relatives, she has helped countless people over the decades, including myself.
During the height of the pandemic, my longtime business began floundering due to civil lawsuits, unmanageable rent and debts (with interest) accumulating at a rapid pace.
To make a long story short, this was without question the most traumatic period in my life. With very minimal options left, I hesitantly turned to my grandmother, ashamed that I might have let her down.
After I thoroughly explained the situation, she willingly helped me both financially and through the services of her highly competent attorney.
I went from stressed to the point of burnout to elated and incredibly relieved in a matter of weeks, mostly thanks to my giving and generous grandmother.
She has been inherently generous for all of her life. And today at the ripe age of 88 years, while many of her peers have passed away, she is a formidable picture of health — mentally sharp, no medical issues, and still regularly helping people in need in any way she can.
3) Generosity is good for our relationships
While I’ve always respected my grandmother, I admired her even more after she helped me.
So this one is a no brainer: being generous helps you with your social life and relationships.
It’s an excellent practice in social connectedness.
When you’re generous with your time and resources, you tend to be viewed as a good person by many, thereby attracting a lot of quality people into your life.
The simple deed of giving causes our brain to treat the recipient as good-natured and more worthy to receive.
Be generous and selfless without expecting anything in return, and expect to have improved and deeper, more quality relationships in life – this ranges from interactions with strangers to marital satisfaction.
Your immediate circle aside, generosity is generally infectious, in the process influencing your entire community at large.
4) Generosity is contagious
Have you ever been moved by an act of generosity? Here’s the thing, that feeling is contagious.
By being generous, you are spreading good energy and this creates a ripple effect, particularly in a digital, social media-dominant era where communication and messages can be spread across the globe in a split-second.
More often than not, when we are generous, others are likely to be generous in return. This creates an upstanding cycle of giving and receiving that can result in a positive collective mindset for communities and society as a whole.
I recall when I was a cash-strapped and lonely student in the UK a decade ago. I was regularly taken in by a former staff member of my family, now himself an undocumented immigrant trying to get by in London. Let’s call him Eric.
Regardless of the contents of his bank account and his modest job as a cleaner, Eric would invite me regularly to his rented room, where he and his loving wife would cook elaborate meals for me.
If it was getting late, they’d let me crash there. Every time I offered to pay or to compensate them, they would vehemently refuse.
They didn’t have much, struggling to make ends meet in a strange, expensive country. Yet their selflessness was very poignant to me, as it is now looking back.
As an impressionable and relatively immature young man, I found their display of sheer generosity and kindness impressive and it has had a lasting effect on me.
I would see Eric and his wife regularly during my tenure abroad, practically becoming family. To this day, we are in frequent contact.
Flying home after graduation, I definitely felt more equipped as a human being. I gained perspective and insight – touched by being a recipient of such moving generosity.
5) Generosity boosts empathy
By being generous, we naturally become more empathetic and compassionate towards others, since we are able to put ourselves in their shoes and become exposed to their struggles.
Being generous takes the focus off ourselves. We tend to get self-absorbed when idle – honing in on our shortcomings and producing pessimistic and counterproductive energy.
When our focus shifts outwards (such as through acts of generosity) we tend to feel greater empathy about the plight of others rather than dwell on our own negative inclinations.
And as we established earlier, it feels pretty damn good to help others.
Eventually, this energy will become a way of life. You’ll constantly feel good, leaving all the other thoughts behind. Sometimes permanently.
6) Generosity is good for your personal development
Being generous can also give you greater meaning in life. Many people I have come across in life have a lot of existentialist angst. They constantly overthink about their purpose in life, worrying about what comes next.
If you implant generosity in your life, you’ll eventually feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning. The very act of helping others is meaningful in itself.
This will likely give you a greater sense of self-satisfaction too – an energy and confidence that will resonate through your career, family, and life in general.
Knowing we have made a positive impact on someone’s life increases a sense of community and lowers artificial barriers like class or skin color. It also reinforces one of humanity’s inherent truths: that we are indeed just one world.
Remember, generosity doesn’t have to pertain to money or material things–it can include something as basic as your time.
When I was in my mid-teens, like many young people, I was pretty self-involved and insecure.
I was also regularly angsty and rebellious being the product of an ugly divorce between my parents just a few years prior.
I was an underachiever in high school and socially awkward. One day an older cousin suggested I do some volunteer work. So reluctantly, every month for the rest of the school year, I volunteered with a local non-profit to help build houses for the less fortunate.
As an impressionable teenager, the experience of volunteering had profound effects on me and my development: I grew up faster, I made friends, I found an escape from my thoughts most importantly, I learned what it meant to help others.
I changed my outlook and learned that the world was so much bigger than me and my issues. A bit of generosity really does go a long way for all those involved.
If you’re not where you want to be in terms of both generosity level and personal development, don’t worry, we all move at our own pace. Becoming your best self takes will, resilience and determination.
I know this because until recently I had trouble overcoming procrastination and self-absorption to embrace what drives me now, which includes things like generosity and selflessness.
An awesome tool I’ve come across for self-development and resilience is this free core values exercise by acclaimed life coach Jeanette Brown.
To find out more, check out her free video here.
7) Generosity is good for the world
Aside from the mental, physical and social benefits, being generous is significant because it empowers you to make your community (and the world) a better overall place.
Think about it, there is a lot of pain and greed in this world. As a human being, we have a tangible choice regarding how to live our lives; whether that’s to perpetuate the status quo of limitless greed and injustice or do something about it.
Here’s some more food for thought: there are now 7.9 billion people on the planet, the majority of which rely on others’ generosity for the opportunity to thrive.
Unfortunately, we also inhabit a planet where corrupt regimes and institutions rule over us, where global inequality reigns and is actively maintained. This is a world where wealth is hoarded among a few instead of distributed equally. And these powers-that-be tend to prioritize money and power more than actually helping others.
Many of the world’s problems could be solved with just a little more generosity (and empathy.) Studies have shown that it can cost a few billion dollars annually to end world hunger. What is spent on needless wars or weapon technology could be reallocated to ending poverty, disease or hunger or at least reducing these things considerably.
In a world where there is no shortage of greed, the demand for generous people is at an all-time high. We need you to bring some balance to this world.
Live your life with genuine empathy and unselfishness towards others and expect some real changes around you. Generosity is all about helping others, and when you are generous, you join a relatively exclusive club of people doing good for humanity.
Make generosity a mindset, an ingrained way of living. By helping others, you are, in your own way, changing the fabric of society.
But remember that true generosity is giving without expecting anything in return, whether the latter means a reciprocal favor or going viral on social media. Be generous because you want to help others and make the world a better place for everyone. Period.
To recap, generosity is a crucial aspect of human behavior that can bring people together, improve your wellbeing and create an overall better world for everyone.
Remember, generosity is infectious. It’s motivating. The more you give, the better you’ll feel. Eventually if you sustain it, the good feeling spreads to everyone around you – and even to those who aren’t.