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Psychology Behind the Act of Generosity

Who spend [in the cause of Allah ﷻ] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah ﷻ loves the doers of good”

[Aal-e-Imran: 134] 

People who spend their hard-earned wealth in the way of Allah ﷻ, with the only aim of attaining His ﷻ pleasure, are loved by Allah ﷻ, and for sure, He ﷻ rewards them abundantly. But, do you know how a true act of generosity leaves a remark on you psychologically? Let’s delve deeper into this topic. 

Reward Centre: Why Do You Feel Good When You Give? 

When you help someone with charity, a pathway in your brain- the Mesolimbic system- lights up to give you a rush of ‘feel-good’ chemicals, especially Dopamine. Interestingly, this same pathway and chemicals are activated for other rewarding things such as when you eat good food, play something you like, learn something you are curious about, or when you engage in prayer. People continue doing these things to feel good, and sometimes it becomes addictive. Similar is the effect when you start giving. You feel a sense of joy and warmth when you practice the act of charity, and you want to do it more to obtain the same feeling. 

“…And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.”

[At-Taghabun: 16] 

Improve Your Self-Esteem and Satisfaction 

Don’t you feel a sense of achievement and fulfilment when you engage in charity? This is what many scientists have tried to prove through their researches. They have reported that charity, or giving, will surely improve a person’s self-esteem and general satisfaction with life. Engaging in aspects of helping and charity gives meaning and purpose to life, as many times, we tend to see the direct impact. 

“Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase and invoke [Allah’s blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” 

[At-Tawbah: 103] 

Take Your Depression Down 

Perhaps, because you get many positive feelings out of giving or charity, you are subsequently lowering the risk of depression. When you help others or aid in charity, you gain motivation to seek fulfilment and choose a healthier means of coping in life. Also, when you do an act that is Sadaqah Jaariyah, like planting a tree or helping to build a Masjid and you know it will fetch you rewards from Allah ﷻ, you are prone to continue doing it. This will again make you experience positive emotions. So, the next time you feel down, try helping someone in need. Allah ﷻ promises you will not grieve. 

“Those who spend their wealth [in Allah’s way] by night and by day, secretly and publicly – they will have their reward with their Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.”

[Al-Baqarah: 274] 

Celebrate Brotherhood 

The Prophet ﷺ said, “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” 

[Sahih al-Bukhari, 13] 

Being a part of the Muslim society, it is our duty to show compassion and to wish good for our fellow beings. The best way to do so is by helping those in need. This will make you feel that you have brothers, to whom you must do good as Allah ﷻ has been good to you, and a way to perfect your Faith. Also, by giving, you might be saving a person who is on the verge of committing a theft or cheat to feed the stomachs that are dependent on him. This will make the Ummah as one family and provide a sense of ‘social security’.  

Evoke Gratitude by Giving 

When you receive a gift or help during a desperate time, you are elicited with feelings of gratitude towards your helper or giver. Psychologists say that giving elicits gratitude, and gratitude is integral to our happiness and health.  

Barbara Fredrickson, a renowned happiness researcher, suggests in her book Positivity that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well, and in the process, you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.” 

So, do not hesitate to give, for we have been assured by our Prophet ﷺ, “Charity does not in any way decrease the wealth…”

[Sahih Muslim, 2588] 

Deepen Your Social Connection and Competence 

We are social beings, and charity is one way with which we can strengthen our social bond. When you volunteer with a charitable organization, you get to know many people who have chosen the same course as you, giving a sense of companionship. And by committing yourself to such programs, you will feel that you have made some purposeful contribution to society, which in many cases has proven to be a source of increased longevity, especially among older people.  

Remember how the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, Umar and Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with them), competed against each other by giving all their wealth in the path of Allah ﷻ. We sure can race against each other to earn the pleasure of Allah ﷻ such that all of us are benefitted.  

Endnote 

When we talk about charity, it is not always about sharing millions of your wealth. Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Your smiling in the face of your brother is charity, commanding good and forbidding evil is charity, your giving directions to a man lost in the land is charity for you. Your seeing for a man with bad sight is a charity for you, your removal of a rock, a thorn or a bone from the road is charity for you. Your pouring what remains from your bucket into the bucket of your brother is a charity for you.”

[Jami` at-Tirmidhi, 1956] 

These are the simple things we can do to attain the pleasure of Allah ﷻ, by following the Sunnah and elevating our mental health. 

“Who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts are fearful, and [to] the patient over what has afflicted them, and the establishers of prayer and those who spend from what We have provided them.

[Al- Hajj: 35] 

Written by: Taz Iris
Edited by: The Editorial Team 
© The Islamic Reflections Blog

References: 

https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-giving

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

https://islamqa.info/en

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1 thought on “Psychology Behind the Act of Generosity

  1. Beautiful post

Jazaakumullah Khairan! Thank You! We appreciate your efforts to leave us a comment :)