Why giving is good


We all catch ourselves thinking “What’s in it for me?” when doing something for another, but life is so much better when we just let go and simply enjoy giving without expecting anything in return. Five insights.

  1. More well-being

    Taking the biggest piece of cake while no one is looking, or eyeing the best seat on the bus. Don’t we all sometimes do something selfish? But giving that big piece of cake to someone else may make us feel even better. Psychologist Ernst Bohlmeijer explains that giving is good for us: “Research shows us that people who are active givers to others and to their community experience more well-being than others. Working on goals beyond our own self-interest is one of the most satisfying and meaningful things we can do.”

  2. Greed is out

    It may sound strange, but our brains still follow the programming of our prehistoric ancestors, who were frequently hungry and so giving often meant making a large sacrifice. “It was vital to survival to grab what you could,” Stefan Klein writes in his book Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along. “But this greed, like the appendix in our bodies, has lost its evolutionary function. Because most people in the western world live in abundance, having more does not lead to greater chance of 
procreation. On the contrary, altruists are healthier and they live longer than egotists, just as long as they don’t make sacrifices that are harmful to themselves.”

  3. Self-care

    Giving does not mean never thinking of yourself. In fact, it’s the opposite. Psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe advocates more self-care, but not in a selfish “me first” kind of way. For him, self-care is connected to self-determination, and not being dependent on your needs or the system around you. “If you take good care of yourself, you can make better social connections, because you make everyone feel better,” he says. “You automatically take care of the group. And caring for someone else usually makes us happy.”

  4. Kindness is contagious

    Good news: altruism is contagious. According to philosopher Stefan Klein, this is because we tend to copy each other: “We do back what is done to us,” he writes. “Just seeing people make an effort to help one another
awakens altruism. That’s another reason why being helpful is never in vain. One good deed begets another, and this builds mutual trust.”

  5. Positive attention

    According to psychologist Maaike Klinkhamer, people have a universal need to be seen and heard. “No matter how confident or modest we are, we all like to get attention,” she says. “Positive attention is a form of recognition and it makes us feel that we matter.”

  • These insights come from the Flow Weekly in Issue 9 (not available in the Flow Shop anymore)

Text Otje van der Lelij  Photography Lina Trochez/Unsplash.com