Science Says...Generosity Can Make You Happier!

Science Says…Generosity Makes You Happier!

Even Stormtroopers can be generous. aitoff/461@pixabay.com

Math and science scare me. And how appropriate, Halloween is right around the corner. Spooky. I am not lauding my fears, mind you. It’s just a fact. But for you, dear readers, I am willing to work through my anxieties to let you in on some really new and cool scientific news.
Well, you knew it and I knew it, but now science confirms it. Being generous makes you happier. A group of scientists from the University of Zurich in Switzerland released their findings this past July in Nature Communications.
As Amanda MacMillan from Time magazine explained, “The researchers wanted to see whether simply pledging to being generous was enough to make people happier. So before doling out any money, they brought everyone into the lab and asked them to think about a friend they'd like to give a gift to and how much they would hypothetically spend. They then performed functional MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.

 …Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves. They also had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness, and they reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.”
So let me impress you – or feel free to let your eyes glaze over – as I point out the parts of the brain that were positively impacted by generosity: temporoparietal junction, ventral striatum, and orbitofrontal cortex. You’re welcome. And thanks, Medical News Today.
Bottom line: generosity makes you happy.
How should you put this in practice?
1. Give people the opportunity to give.
2. Don’t be embarrassed to ask individuals to give. You are providing an opportunity to improve their mental health. That’s a gift.
3. Remind your congregation of how generous they are.
4. Thank them often for their generosity.
If you need further proof, check out the Widow’s Mite, the Good Samaritan, Jesus feeding the 5,000, or Zacchaeus to remind yourself about the power of generosity to transform lives.
It’s not rocket science (that’s another phobia), but it is common sense. That warm glow you feel when you do something for someone other than yourself? That’s a God moment. Embrace it. Practice it.

Here’s a quick follow-up to last week’s post about storytelling:
Rev. Barbara Nixon of Corvallis United Methodist Church (Oregon) wrote me saying that her church has had great success interviewing people in the congregation during their Stewardship Month. It’s been so successful that they plan on doing it at least once a month from here on out. Here are the questions they use:
- How long have you been a part of this congregation?
- How did you find us?
- Why did you stay?
- Do any of our church beliefs especially speak to you?
- How are you involved? (ministries, activities, education, etc.)
- What do you picture or look forward to through us/among us, etc.?
As Barbara relayed, “We have interviewed a brand new member, a facilities person, a child (she rocked ‘I've been coming here since before I was born!’), and a young family.  We have not asked a direct money question but have had some financial info available through the business manager and through a narrative hand-out.”
Thanks, Barbara and Corvallis UMC! Are there others out there who have had success with this style of testimony? Let me hear from you.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is wondering if there is a support group for those with math and science phobias. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.