Why giving makes us happy


Helping other people, getting involved in nature conservation, donating money: doing good is meaningful and brings happiness, especially to those who give up their time to work on a voluntary basis.

Why giving makes us happy? What scientific research says.

«It is more blessed to give than to receive,» is what we read in the Bible. Proof of this has recently been confirmed by several international studies conducted by scientists working in brain research. According to their results, acts of charity cause a range of happiness messenger substances to be released, including dopamine, which acts as the key player in the brain’s reward centre and is responsible for anticipating pleasure. Serotonin is also released – the result of receiving praise and appreciation – as well as the bonding hormone oxytocin, which is important for feelings of togetherness and for connecting with others.

Focussing on our fellow human beings

It makes us realise that we can make a difference. This encourages us to make a meaningful contribution and to be of service to others. Being willing to help also switches our focus to those who need support, a phenomenon currently demonstrated by the corona crisis: «Many people have become aware that our prosperity is not set in stone and that anyone and everyone can be affected,» says Alessandra Degiacomi, project manager for voluntary work at Caritas.

Glückskette fundraising campaign

The fact that the Swiss aren't indifferent to the well-being of their fellow human beings is evidenced by the current Glückskette fundraising campaign, which has collected more than 42 million francs since March. The money goes to those who were already living at an existential minimum before the pandemic, and who have now lost their job and are in dire need of help.

Doing good: many ways of getting involved

Donating money to charitable organisations is one way to do good. Those who would like to do more for their community have plenty of options. One example is through the hilf-jetzt.ch platform that was set up in March, and enables volunteers and those in need to connect. And while some people give blood on a regular basis as their gesture of solidarity, or are registered on the blood stem cell register, others lend a hand to mountain farming families, teach German to immigrants or take part in nature conservation activities.

Anyone interested will find more than 1,200 ways of volunteering at benevol-jobs.ch.

Passion and expertise

Benevol is the umbrella organisation for volunteer work. Any newcomers willing to offer their services but unsure what they want to do, can seek advice from staff at the organisation’s centres. «The most successful way to volunteer in your immediate environment is to get involved in areas that mean something to you and in which you are happy to help,» says Thomas Hauser, Benevol’s managing director. Asking yourself what it is that lights your fire is Lukas Niederberger’s advice, managing director of the Swiss Society for the Common Good. Once you know where you want to invest your energy, your passion, your expertise and your network of contacts, it is easier to find the best assignment and organisation (see checklist).

Tips for newcomers

You want to do good, but don’t know how? These questions and tips will help you decide:

  1. How much time do you want to invest? Are you thinking of a one-off assignment, a temporary project or several years of board work in an association?
  2. If an organisation appeals to you and corresponds to your values, then contact the people in charge and ask how you can best get involved.
  3. Arrange a «trial visit» and only commit if you can do so easily. Volunteer work should be fun and not a burden.

Other ideas for voluntary acti­vi­ties

You want to do good, but don’t know how?

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