Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Get Your Good On

Go on, give until it hurts – then just give a little more, you’ll feel better. Honest.

The horrors we’ve witnessed this week (if only digitally or electronically) have proven to be yet another eye opener for this country.

Life is indeed temporal, and although we attempt to safeguard ourselves, our families and property from forces beyond our control, stuff happens. Every day. Carpe diem and all that, but what should we be reaching for to genuinely enrich our quality of life and overall well-being, when death, misery and destruction is lurking around every corner of the globe?

Of course, that’s for each of us to decide, but studies are showing that it isn’t a holiday in the sun or a designer handbag. St. Francis was probably right when he said, "For it is in giving that we receive."

A couple of years ago, neuroscientists from the National Institutes of Health scanned the brains of volunteers who were asked to envision themselves making a generous donation to a charity and then to envision keeping the money for themselves. They found that when the volunteers envisioned altruistic, selfless acts, a primitive part of their brains lit up like a Christmas tree - the same response rendered when the subjects thought about food and wait for it…sex!

And this moral bio-coding isn’t exclusive to humans - studies also showed that even rats experience empathy. When a rat was given food and its neighbor in turn received an electrical shock, over time the well fed rats chose to forego the food.

We’re social creatures and are inter-dependent on each other for survival. We’re biologically programmed to look after each other. Over the coming days and weeks, in the midst of our own struggles to stay afloat and survive in an economically fraught jungle, we’re likely to be bombarded by requests to donate to the Haitian relief efforts. As a PR person, I know that there’s a good chance that people will start to feel inundated, then overwhelmed and finally tune out when they hear the words “Haiti” or “earthquake”.

But if or when this happens, I’m hoping we can remember to be as good or better than the rats, and remember just how good being good feels.

What’s in it for us? Lots. So much so, in fact, that it could be argued that an altruistic act is really an impossibility. Ha!

So if you want to feel REALLY good today, (perhaps you’ve already eaten and aren’t in the mood for sex), follow this link to the Red Cross site and “get your good on”.

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