Here's the thing: helping others will make you happier and healthier. In fact, you will experience the same physiological response and emotional rewards (sometimes referred to as the “warm glow” effect) from charitable giving that you would get from sex, food, drugs, or receiving money.
Dr. Jordan Grafman, of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland led a study that showed this by using MRI imaging to identify areas of the brain that are activated by monetary rewards alone and those activated by charitable giving. Interestingly, the researchers found that giving was more rewarding than receiving money.
Contrary to what most of us believe, money is only weakly connected to our happiness, particularly once we feel our basic needs are met. Multiple studies show that within developed countries, i.e., those that are wealthy relative to the rest of the world, incomes have risen dramatically over the past several decades, yet happiness levels remain flat. The truth appears to be that what we do with the money we have is the key to our happiness.
Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia, confirmed this by showing that giving money away makes us happier than accumulating personal wealth. Dunn believes that while giving once causes a temporary boost in feeling good, making it a lifestyle could have long-term positive effects for donors. Best of all, her study showed that one doesn't have to give large sums of money to benefit. Study participants benefited from giving away as little as $5.