This is Your Brain on Generosity

A word of introduction: This week we are focusing on generosity as an antidote to selfishness. First Christian Church elder Jason Collins shares the latest brain research.


An entire field of brain science exists to explore the effects of generosity on both the giver and the recipient. Over the years, two brain chemicals, dopamine and oxytocin, have gotten the most attention. When you perform an act of giving, whether it be a donation of money, talent, or simply time, your brain produces more dopamine and oxytocin. The closer you are to the recipient, the greater the effect.

People who have healthy levels of dopamine and oxytocin are more likely to be satisfied with their lives and less prone to depression, anxiety, and other effects of stress. They also tend to have stronger bonds with their families and community, and are therefore more likely to give of themselves. Generosity is addictive!

These and other brain chemicals are believed to be critically important in the success (or failure) of the societies of both humans and animals. Those groups that look out for and care for one another tend to thrive, while those that are more selfish eventually wither. 

It's amazing to think that we are built in such a way that selfless acts improve not only our own lives, but the lives of everyone and everything around us. We are hard-wired to do good and benefit from it. What are you doing to boost your dopamine and oxytocin?

Pay attention to how you feel when you give of yourself to others. Can you feel the positive effects in yourself as well as in the world around you?