Keep It in Mind

Understanding and improving your working memory.

Give to Feel Good

January is National Thank You Month. Top three reasons why you should give.

January is National Thank You Month. Here are three top reasons why you should show you are thankful by giving back to your community.

1. Get your Dopamine boost! Did you know that giving of your time or volunteering can release the same feel-good sensation as eating chocolate or a candy bar. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that is linked with pleasurable experiences, such as enjoying a good meal or spending time with a close friend. For example, when we see a chocolate bar, dopamine makes us want to eat it. When we eat it, we feel a rush of dopamine-induced pleasure. Dopamine reinforces behaviors that make us feel really good to make sure that we engage in that behavior again. Brain scans show a surge of dopamine when we give or volunteer our time. Researchers call this “the helper’s high”. So when you volunteer your time or do something good for others you get that same wonderful feel-good sensation. 

2. Motives Matter: Volunteering or giving back to the community can seem like a selfless act. But, in fact, people volunteer for a wide range of reasons, from getting out of the house and meeting new people to doing something good for others. A study of over 3000 people found that people who volunteer because they want to help others, live longer than people who don't volunteer at all. In fact, those mainly for some sort of personal benefit live no longer than non-volunteers. 

3. Don't use your busy schedule as an excuse--giving time can give YOU time: Researchers found that giving away time boosts your own sense of personal competence and efficiency. As a result, it 'stretches' our perspective of time in our minds, and makes us more willing to commit to future engagements despite our busy schedules. 

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Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Memory and Learning in the Lifespan at the University of Stirling, UK.

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