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The feature article from GC Nonprofit News, 2/8/2024.

Mental Wellness: Moving from Ego to Empathy in order to Unlock the Hidden Power of Giving

Do you ever feel like you're missing a key ingredient to life? Or worse, life is throwing you lemons, and you can’t even make lemonade right? Here you are, working your tail off, ticking all the boxes society tells you to, thinking that the next big thing—a promotion, a fancy car, or whatever—will finally bring that elusive happiness or feeling of contentment. But then, when you actually get it, happiness seems to slip through your fingers like sand, and you are left looking for the meaning or purpose of life.

This all begs the question: How do we actually achieve a sense of sustained emotional, social, and spiritual well-being? We must tap into empathy and go beyond the narrow confines of our own suffering to lean into the collective. When we think of ourselves as part of a bigger whole, we are tapping into our spirituality and social health, which have long been guiding forces in the human experience. That’s why we build families, seek out community, and long for connection with others. Indeed, a victory only tastes sweet when shared with those you love. And it’s why pure joy shows up when we do something for someone else without expecting anything in return. When we operate from a place of empathy and love instead of ego and fear, we finally tame the chase.

Research shows that giving to others improves not only our emotional, social, and spiritual health but also our physical health. From healthy stress-reducing hormones to reductions in blood pressure and even improved sleep, giving to others is not just an act of kindness to those you are serving but also for yourself. A 2008 Harvard study found that individuals who gave money to others experienced higher ratings of happiness than those that spent the money on themselves (Norton, 2008). Another study completed in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health found that giving to charitable causes activates the same regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust (Moll & Colleagues, 2006). When we give, we activate gratitude, social bonding, social cooperation, and more, bringing us one step closer to a true sense of joy—one that can be sustained and doesn’t slip out of our grasp quite so easily.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, take time to set intentions and find ways to give without expecting in return. One of life’s great ironies is that the more you give, the more you receive. We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give. Find gratitude for the small delights in your life, give to those in need around you, build a sense of community and connectedness, and share your joy with others—this is how we end the chase and sustain our well-being long into the future.

Anthony Pantano

Manager of Advancement

Best Point Education and Behavioral Health

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