Have you ever wondered why helping others often comes with a sense of satisfaction? It’s because generosity makes us feel good on a physiological level.

“Giving actually releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “So, it’s not only good to be generous because it’s good for our community, but it’s also good for your health.”

Health benefits of generosity
Studies show that practicing generosity and gratitude is linked to improved mood and well-being, stronger relationships, increased optimism and can even help boost the immune system by lowering stress.

“Kids are inherently good, and they want to do good things in this world. It doesn’t take that much encouragement for them to do that and it really builds their character,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

Children are not born knowing how to be generous—it’s a trait that must be learned. To help instill generosity in your kids:

  • Make gratitude a daily habit. Take a few minutes at dinner or before bed to talk with your kids about something during their day that they are grateful for.
  • Lead by example. Parents play a big role in helping kids develop generosity—by encouraging their child and being more generous themselves.
  • Praise your children for their generous behavior. Receiving positive recognition for their actions makes kids more likely to continue doing it.

Dr. Bradshaw says kids of all ages have something to contribute when it comes to helping others. “Kids need to know that they’re important at every age and just them coming along and doing any little part of the giving activity with their family adds to the impact of that gift to someone else.”

Researchers studying child development have determined that inherent traits are typically instilled in a child by the time they become a young adult. Regularly talking with your kids about generosity and the importance of helping others can heavily influence how they will value those traits as adults.

Finding ways to help others
Showing generosity doesn’t have to involve money. It can be as simple as sending a handmade card to a friend who is sad, collecting clothes or food to donate, or volunteering with a local charity.

During the Holiday Farm Fire east of Springfield earlier this year, kids and their families created thank you posters for the first responders. They hung them along the fence at Thurston Middle School, which served as the base for firefighting operations. That gesture lifted the spirits of firefighters and the community.

“Acts of generosity can start as a little snowball and then grow into an avalanche of positivity,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “When we can engage our kids, our families and our communities in the act of giving, it can turn 2020 from a very challenging year into something sort of beautiful as well.”