Celebrating National Give Something Away Day
Founded in 2015, National Give Something Away Day is fairly new. But since its inception, every July 15, we can all take the time to thoughtfully and purposefully participate in this meaningful day.
Before we get into how participating in this day can benefit our brain, it’s important to understand what purposefully giving something away means. More than simply giving a bag of clothes to the donation bin, we can take a moment and envision how the items we’re giving away will impact someone else.
Giving and the brain
In the past several years, there have been multiple studies looking at how generosity affects happiness, well-being, and cognitive function. One such study, published in Nature Communications in July 2017, compared participants who spent money on themselves versus those who spent their money on others. They concluded that the area of the brain related to happiness, known as the temporoparietal junction, was functionally increased in the participants who spent their money on others.
Another study showed that generosity decreases activity in the amygdala, which lowers anxiety and stress. When participants were engaged in targeted generosity not only activity levels in the amygdala were lowered, but increased activity in the ventral striatum. This combined activity led researchers to conclude that engaging in active giving creates specific neural pathways in our brain. The more we focus on living a life of service, the more active these pathways become, reinforcing a happier, less anxious state of mind.
Ways to embrace purposeful giving
There are several ways we can embrace purposeful and thoughtful giving. Cleaning out a closet or making special purchases to donate is one way to celebrate National Give Something Away Day. The important thing is to focus on what giving these items could potentially mean to the person on the receiving end. If it’s possible to actually participate in the exchange, the more impactful the act is for that individual and our brain.
We can also give our time. Volunteering at a foodbank, helping at a nursing home, or signing up for storytime in a library are a few ways to give back to our neighborhood and community. Or perhaps a neighbor needs help in their yard or completing a task around their home. Maybe a school fundraiser could use a hand or a local charity. There are countless ways we can participate in purposeful giving.
It isn’t what we’re giving, but how our giving impacts someone else. By focusing on the recipient, we can boost the feel-good hormones in our brain, triggering the happiness areas in our brain and strengthening those pathways. So make time to give back and let us know about your experience in the comments below.