The Joy of Giving: Connection Between Wellness and Philanthropy

by Brenna Kehew Sculley

by Amber Edwards
The task of making the philosophy of philanthropy an engaging premise is a challenging one, but one an ELYSIAN woman knows well. For it is in our commitment to giving, to causes outside ourselves, and the connection with our community and the world that feeds our souls.  
Throughout the years, research has proven what we can all guess to be true. Doing good for others imparts goodness into your own life. As the National Institute of Health detailed, a continually growing body of literature, largely based on adults and old people, suggests that volunteering and charitable donations are related to individuals’ psychological well-being.
And what is philanthropy exactly? In their research on philanthropy and community well-being, scholars Patsy Kraeger and Rhonda Phillips found much to be gained by those engaging in philanthropy, something they defined as “Simply put – doing good to enhance community well-being. Well-being, like philanthropy, stems from a philosophical and historical perspective relating to the promotion of “goodness” at a community or individual level.”
One of the key ways philanthropy enhances well-being is by providing individuals with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Knowing that their actions are making a positive difference in the lives of others can bring a deep sense of satisfaction and meaning to one’s life. This sense of purpose can be especially crucial in times of personal struggle or uncertainty, providing a guiding light amidst challenges.
Our brains are always seeking serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, the “feel good” chemicals that give you those fuzzy feelings. “When we do things for other people, it makes us feel much more engaged and joyful,” shared psychologist Dr. Susan Albers. “That’s good for our health and our happiness.” Giving and volunteering lowers our stress levels by reducing cortisol, and gives you a “helper’s high” that boosts your self-esteem, perhaps contributing to a longer life. 
Engaging in philanthropic activities also fosters connections and social support networks. By coming together with others who share similar values and goals, individuals can build strong relationships and a sense of community. These social connections provide emotional support, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and contribute to overall happiness and well-being. 
Finding the right fit for you is deeply personal. Whether it is identifying an in-person volunteering opportunity perhaps through Senior Corps, becoming a CASA, volunteering at your local national park, establishing a scholarship at your alma mater, or simply donating to causes that strike you as worthy, there is much to be gained in giving. 
Participating in philanthropy helps us look outside ourselves. By actively seeking to understand and address the needs of others, individuals develop a greater sense of empathy, which enhances their ability to relate to and connect with people from diverse backgrounds. This increased empathy not only strengthens interpersonal relationships but also promotes greater emotional well-being and a more positive outlook on life.
Overall, philanthropy plays a vital role in enhancing individual and collective well-being. By fostering purpose, connection, empathy, and pride, philanthropy creates a more compassionate and equitable society where everyone can thrive. Whether through financial donations, volunteer work, or acts of kindness, each act of philanthropy has the power to make a difference and contribute to a brighter, happier future for all.

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