The Giving High

The greatest gift I’ve ever been given is the gift of being lifted up into being a human being in a position to be giving.

It is interesting to consider the idea that when compared side by side, it is far more rewarding to be the gift giver then it is to be the receiver.  Think about a time in your life when you were able to be in service or give a gift to another individual, or even a time when you were able to donate to an organization.  It was likely to have induced one of the most amazing natural kind of highs there is to be had!  And yes, while it absolutely feels good to be the recipient of a gift – particularly if it an extraordinarily large lottery winning or a spanking new 2015 Lexus – being a gift recipient typically does not give us the same sort of Red Bull wings on our back that being the giver of the gift does.  Whether we are being in service at our homegroup, paying for a newcomer’s after-the-meeting diner meal or giving a gift to a family member or friend, an act of generosity just feels really, really good.

There is actually some research behind understanding this whole idea.  When scientists look at the brain activity of individuals who are giving a gift versus individuals who receive a gift, what they find is that the brain lights up much more when we are the giver.  The brain’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals are released, including dopamine and oxytocin, and we quite literally get a natural high as a result.  For many of us in long-term recovery, experiencing a rush such as this is exactly what we sought through the use of alcohol and other drugs.  Who would have thought that the greatest high in the world would actually come from being the exact opposite of the self-centered nature often described as the core of our disease?  Furthermore, even people who are not in recovery from addiction challenges are hard-wired to feel good when giving.  Human beings are built to give to one another.

For me in my own personal recovery journey, I have been beyond blessed to be placed in positions to “pay it forward” and give back to others.  I have found that not only do I enjoy the natural high of service work and giving, but that my life has also been filled with boundless beauty and abundance as a result of selfless giving.  Getting in touch with the notion that “we can only keep what we have by giving it away” has been a journey through many layers of the onion for me.  At this point in my life, I’d have to say that nothing leaves me feeling more like an optimally functioning vehicle for God/my higher power/my higher self/the Universe/Buddha/Allah than being in a position of being able to give.  Whether it is my time, money, energy, presence, knowledge, experience or something else, being in a position to give is a gift that far exceeds any other gift I could receive.