If sex didn’t feel good, would as many people do it? If drugs didn’t make you high, would as many people take them? No—definitely not. We like to do what feels good, and we generally don’t like to do what doesn’t. Inverting the question, then, if GIVING felt good, would more people do it? I believe the answer is a resounding, “YES!”
Simply put, not all giving is equal. There are certain circumstances in which giving just doesn’t feel as good. Change the circumstances for the giving, however, and–BINGO–the brain’s pleasure centers start firing more intensely. Same behaviors of giving, but different context and reasons for doing it.
The hypothesis of the Love-Revolution is simple: if we can understand the conditions that cause warm glow to happen when we give, then we can create giving opportunities that cause the warm glow feeling. The result is that we will better enjoy our giving experiences, and we will be more likely to continue giving in the future.
A few years ago, I was talking to a gentleman who is a project director for the Red Cross. In speaking to a group of incoming volunteers who were going down to Louisiana to give their time and energy toward Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, he told them, “We don’t give because of what other people will think of us. Do you know why we give? Because of that rosy feeling we get in our chest.” I thought this was very interesting—the feeling of afterglow that followed giving was enough to make this man not just give himself, but to motivate an entire room full of volunteers to find the energy and the will to give.
All of this is very exciting. It is an opportunity to merge the best of charity and the best of neuroscience. More research still needs to be done to explore how our motives for giving effect our brain and our feelings. But we can clearly see exciting links being made between our brains and our humanity. This is cool stuff—science and technology are becoming friends with the realm of philosophy and ethics, and even with behaviors and ideals that are universally important to religion and spirituality. You can sense the potential for love growing as these disciplines come together to start trading notes from the lessons about human love that they have been accumulating over the past several millennia.