Doing good does good for the doer. Research bears this out. When volunteers were put in a functional MRI scanner and were told they would be giving some of their money to charity, the areas of their brains associated with pleasure— like food and sex— lit up like Christmas trees. Giving to others triggers dopamine. Perhaps that could be a new fund-raising slogan?
In another study a team of social psychologists distilled happiness factors into eight common denominators. Two of the first three involve helping others. Happy, contented people “devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.” And “they are often the first to offer a helping hand to co-workers and passers-by.” Seeking joy? Do good for someone else.