Why it Feels Good to Do Good
Many of us were raised to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There’s a bonus to following this rule: It feels good to be good to other people.
We hope that this feeling emerges from simply enjoying the act of a good deed and its positive outcome, as well as the hope that acts of kindness will be repaid to another.
Without belying any of those takeaways, scientists have found that good deeds actually cause the body to secrete a “feel-good” hormone. The same way having a good cry can make us feel better, doing good makes us feel good from a biological perspective.1
Anthropologists agree that it is mankind’s instinct to collaborate — not compete — that ensures the survival of the family. As it turns out, that instinct comes from a powerful hormone called oxytocin. First discovered in 1906, it is commonly referenced as the hormone that seals the bond between a mother and her child. Oxytocin is known to generate feelings of tranquility.2
Because of this, neuroscientists believe that prosocial behaviors such as donating and volunteering boost oxytocin levels by as much as 50 percent. The willingness to do good deeds to help others releases this “happiness chemical,” which in turn creates a bodily response similar to a runner’s high.3
1 Bryan De Lottinville. Benevity. Dec. 12, 2017. “The Neuroscience of Corporate Goodness and Employee Engagement.” https://insights.benevity.com/blog/oxytocin-csr-and-employee-engagement. Accessed May 14, 2018.
Female vs. Male Brain
What’s in a brain? Recently, scientists compared more than 46,000 brain scans to analyze the differences between male and female brains.1
Women were shown to exhibit significantly more activity in more regions of the brain than men. However, the key distinctions are where that activity occurs and what it triggers. For instance, women’s brains are significantly more active and demonstrate a higher level of blood flow in the prefrontal cortex. This region is responsible for focus, impulse control, mood and anxiety.2
This may be why women tend to be more empathetic, intuitive and collaborative and have more self-control. Unfortunately, these same conditions also may trigger anxiety, depression, insomnia and eating disorders — all of which are more common among women than men.3
Men tend to have more activity in the visual and coordination centers of the brain. While these physical attributes tend to be positive, this condition also contributes to more frequent instances of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct-related disorders.4
These findings may explain why men and women react differently, but they also offer constructive insights into how humans may adapt to benefit from the variance in male and female strengths. For example, men may be more physically adept not because of their physiological makeup, but because some physical attributes — like hand-to-eye coordination — are manifested in the brain.
Additionally, research has shown that women tend to be better savers and investors than men. An analysis of more than 8 million Fidelity clients discovered that:5
- Women consistently save a higher percentage of their paychecks than their male counterparts at every salary level
- On average, women earn higher investment returns than men by 40 basis points (0.4 percent), which can generate significant outperformance over the long term
Focus and impulse control — characteristics attributed to female brain activity — may play a part in these outcomes.
1 Rosamond Hutt. World Economic Forum. Aug. 10, 2017. “Women have more active brains than men, according to science.”
5 Fidelity Investments. May 18, 2017. “Who’s the Better Investor: Men or Women?”
https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/individual-investing/better-investor-men-or-women. Accessed May 14, 2018.
Train Your Brain to Be Happy
The brain is a clever organ. In addition to its inherent functions, it can be trained. In fact, scientists say you can even train your brain to be happy. Consider these tips to enhance your sense of wellbeing:1
- Remind yourself to focus on positive thoughts. Leave a note on the mirror as a reminder.
- Every day, think of three things for which you are thankful.
- At the end of each day, write down something that made you happy. There is a strong relationship between memory and hand writing.
- Celebrate your successes, large and small — even if you haven’t quite reached a goal, recognize and congratulate yourself at each benchmark.
1 Minda Zetlin. Inc.com. March 8, 2018. “6 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain for Happiness, According to Science.” https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/6-simple-ways-to-train-your-brain-for-happiness-according-to-science.html. Accessed May 14, 2018.
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
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