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Healing Hearts and Minds: The Medical and Mental Health Benefits of Philanthropy

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. -Booker T. Washington

title image of 2 hands holding a flower with the blog post title "Healing Hearts and Minds: The Benefits of Philanthropy"

Some of you may not know, but by day I lead a team of social workers who advocate and implement teams and plans for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to live successful lives in their communities. As a side gig, I’m a consultant for a children’s publishing company promoting how books can truly provide in all forms. One of my favorite parts of my side gig is that I have the opportunity to benefit my community - philanthropy through books, could it get any better?! 😍 Giving back is an enormous part of my identity as a literacy ambassador (or book dealer, as I prefer 😉).

Coming from a low socioeconomically classified region, being raised in a lower socioeconomic family, I knew first hand how other people’s kindness can be beneficial to those that are struggling. And at the same tone, I watched my same family that struggled give what little they had to others when they had the means and that has always guided me as I grew and into my adulthood. It was never a question of why because I inherently knew that we give to others because when the time comes that we are in need, our previous acts of giving will come back to us. It was and is a belief that is ingrained in my family tree and I always thought it was almost like a generational superstition that had been passed down until I started reading up on the studied and confirmed benefits of philanthropy. Many studies have been done on the effects of giving, be that money, goods, services, or just time, and here's the amazing thing - it creates a ripple effect of positive results both in the receiver AND the giver.

Of note, studies show a marked increase in happiness, lower blood pressure, and lower stress levels in persons that engage in forms of philanthropy. It is also shown that givers often find more prosperity themselves. I have not seen any studies showing the direction of correlation with this, if maybe people that have more prosperity originally are more likely to give (this is not supported by my family, as they gave regardless of their own possessions) or is it more like karma in that they get back the positivity they are putting out into the world? It's likely a combination of both, but I am 100% a believer in things coming back to you 10 fold. Giving to others elicits feelings of gratitude. Obviously, the receiver is grateful for the help and love shown, but the giver also can feel grateful for what they have, for being in a position to help someone else, and for spreading joy and love.

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My favorite result of studies, though, is that it's contagious. It creates ripples. You wake up to your partner having a hot cup of coffee ready for you, so you're in a better mood. You go to the store and in your good mood, offer your parking space closer to the doors to another driver, hold the door open for the person behind you, and help a shopper find an ingredient they are overlooking on the shelf. Each of those people are inspired by your charity and positivity. The driver later allows a car to merge in front of them, not knowing that it's a tired mom trying to get home to her new baby after a long shift at work but making that mom's evening a little more manageable. The person behind you offers to take the kids to the park so their partner can have some time to do a little self care uninterrupted. The other shopper goes for coffee after leaving the store and pays for the person behind them in line. And it goes, and goes, and goes.

This is the power of positivity and kindness in the world. This is what I choose to see and put out into my own community. Will you choose to do the same?



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