I’ve spoken about the benefits of doing good for your business before. From top talent acquisition to improved employee morale, to brand recognition, to being able to identify new market trends and niches, to increased customer loyalty and so on and so forth. Making a difference to the world also makes a difference to your business. The examples are endless.
But getting socially engaged and doing good is not only good business sense, it’s also good for you biologically. The physiological benefits of kindness have been scientifically proven by a number of scientists over the past two decades. Acts of kindness have a variety of positive knock-on effects on our body and spirit.
As human beings, we crave meaning and purpose in life, and one way to find it is to connect to a cause larger than ourselves.
We always think of the business case for the social engagement of businesses and we never even consider our health and wellbeing as a reason. Not that you need a reason to do good, but isn’t it great knowing that doing good for someone else does you good too?
Various researches on the topic of altruism all show consistent results – doing good is good for you in a number of ways. Here’s how:
According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, when we do good deeds our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin. In turn, oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure which is why oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone, it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, researcher Stephen Post also talks about the health benefits of doing good. His research was focused on people with chronic deceases such as HIV and multiple sclerosis. Stephen Post, who is president of the Institute for Research of Unlimited Love, has done a number of studies on altruism generally as well. The results show that people doing good feel more life satisfaction. They have a stronger sense of self-realisation and their health is significantly higher. Mortality is delayed and depression is reduced among such people.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and his colleagues have also done a study on giving and found that, as opposed to their expectations, giving (in this case of money) drastically increases the level of happiness in the givers.
It was also found that the size of the gift bears no correlation as to happy we feel. Therefore small gifts produce as much happiness as large gifts.
This is no surprise, in fact, as it’s been proven by Jorge Moll and his colleagues of the US National Institute of Health that giving activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust.
Dr. Sonja Luybomirsky who is a University of California professor specialising on happiness, says that: “When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person — more moral, optimistic, and positive”. Her research on the topic found that performing positive acts once a week led to the most happiness. She also says: “People who engage in kind acts become happier over time”.
Improved Social Skills
It’s not just health and happiness; doing good has been proved to reduce levels of anxiety in socially anxious people. The University of British Colombia did an experiment where people who were socially anxious had to perform small acts of kindness at least six times a week over a period of four weeks. This included small gestures such as holding the door open for someone, buying lunch for a friend, etc.
The results from the study showed two types of benefits of doing good. Firstly, acts of kindness led to significant increases in participants’ positive mood. Secondly, they led to an increase in relationship satisfaction and decrease in social avoidance in these individuals who are socially anxious.
General wellbeing, positive attitude and levels of happiness are as related to our own internal perception of the world as they are to what happens to us. Thus, oftentimes they are directly affected by our relationships with others or the lack of such.
It’s been found by a number of studies that relationships are absolutely crucial for our mental and psychical health. For example, in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, John Cacioppo says “Health and well-being for a member of our species requires among other things, being satisfied and secure in our bonds with other people.”
Exchanges of kindness increase the sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others. In her book The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Luybomirsky writes “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
So among other benefits, giving and acts of kindness also promote stronger sense of social connectedness vital for our health and wellbeing.
The above mentioned and countless other studies all show the same – volunteering, charity work and giving in general, gives you the feeling that you are important and needed. The sense of purpose that it evokes in turn leads to more happiness, better health and better social connectedness. As a human race, we all want to love and be loved.
Scientific research aside, you don’t need empirical proof. I don’t need to prove this to you. We all know the sense of satisfaction and feeling of happiness that comes with doing good, it is just human nature.
The question is not why do it, but how to do it so that it is incorporated into your daily life. We spend one third, if not more, of our adult life at work and wouldn’t it be great knowing that all this time you invest in your career is also an investment in good, and in yourself?
I work with businesses from manufacturing to services providers to professionals both in the B2B and B2C domain and I know that there’s a growing thrust in people to search for meaning in their lives. And I also know how daunting and challenging embedding a bigger purpose into your organisation is.
If you too feel like helping make the world a slightly better place and want to bring more meaning to your business and to others, please don’t hesitate to touch base with me. I would be happy to chat to you about incorporating good into your strategy and operations in a meaningful way. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.