Research has demonstrated that when performing a act of giving, the brain releases dopamine which is responsible for the feelings of euphoria.
Additionally, it has been shown that the hormone oxytocin was released in study participants. This release increases levels of trust and cooperation.
Isn't it wonderful to realize that the pleasure areas of the brain respond to not only what is good for ourselves but also to what is good for other people?
In her article, The Neuroscience of Giving, Eva Ritvo, M.D. states, "While the brain is remarkably complex, the neurochemical drivers of happiness are quite easy to identify. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin make up the Happiness Trifecta. Any activity that increases the production of these neurochemicals will cause a boost in mood. It’s really that simple."
To help children experience the benefit giving, following are some fun activities to try!
One For You
Give the child the opportunity to have an item and give an item to someone else. For example: Say, “Here is an apple for you. Can you give the other apple to (name of another child)?”
Note: Toddlers do share, but the brain isn’t ready to completely understand sharing at very young ages. At this age giving something to someone when they have the same thing will be the best way to practice.
Doing Nice Things Makes “Cents”
Create a “giving jar” with a supply of pennies (or other coins) on the side. Every time someone in the family does something nice or thoughtful for someone else, a coin can be added to the jar. At the end of the month use the money to donate to an individual or cause that you want to support or help.
Write or Draw for Someone
Set time aside regularly (once a week or once a month) to have your child write a letter or draw a picture to send to someone. This could be sent to a relative or friend, someone that is sick or hospitalized, a deployed military person, a firefighter, a teacher, etc.
Celebration Give Away
At each holiday or birthday, give the child an extra gift to give away. Your child’s brain reward center will benefit most when involved in deciding who should receive the gift.