Sheryl WuDunn: Giving is Good For You

There are countless opportunities in this world for one to give of him- or herself. And doing so, says WuDunn, helps more than just the receiver, even if it's not immediately apparent.

Sheryl WuDunn has the sort of résumé that would impress even Leonardo Da Vinci. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a successful businesswoman, and the co-author of three bestselling books. WuDunn's newest release, also her fourth collaboration with husband Nicholas D. Kristof, is called A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. Its aim is to serve as a road map toward a future full of dedicated global citizens innovating more efficient methods for enacting positive change.


WuDunn recently visited Big Think to discuss some of the key themes of her book, the act of giving being one of the most important. There are countless ways and opportunities in this world for one to give of him- or herself. And doing so, says WuDunn, helps more than just the receiver, even if it's not immediately apparent:

"So we think that when we give we're losing something; we're giving some of our money, our time, our resources to someone else. It turns out when that neuroscientists who have studied altruism, they found some interesting results."

Research actually shows that the effect of altruism on a giver's brain is comparable to the stimulation one experiences when tasting sweets or falling in love. As it turns out, giving is good for you. WuDunn then rattles off multiple figures about how volunteering your time for multiple causes can decrease your mortality risk by as much as 44%. The big takeaway here is that if you're looking for a simple way to make yourself happy and healthy, you could do a lot worse than by simply giving your time, money, and energy to a good cause.

A Path Appears includes a list of organizations from which readers can choose to support, though WuDunn suggests personalizing your volunteership in order to highlight your particular skills. The only real warning she gives is that not every charity in the giving industry is ethical and/or efficient. You have to be wary of scams, you'll want to research just how much of a charity's contributed income ends up serving the cause.

Finally, WuDunn touches on one of the major societal goals moving forward identified in A Path Appears: fighting inequality. WuDunn and Kristof suggest an approach centered around education:

"And the most efficient way of doing that is by intervening early through early childhood education. We're talking about age one, two, three, even before the official public school system kicks in. Because your brain, the brain is forming much more rapidly during those early years in the first one thousand days. So if you can capture that window and milk it for what it is, you'll be far more effective in altering a life path, particularly if it's a child born to parents on welfare or impoverished parents."

Sheryl WuDunn, along with her husband Nicholas D. Kristof, is co-author of the new book A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. WuDunn and Kristof were the first husband-wife duo to win a Pulitzer, for their coverage of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
Surprising Science
  • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
  • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
  • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

Wealth inequality is literally killing us. The economy should work for everyone.

This economy has us in survival mode, stressing out our bodies and minds.

Videos
  • Economic hardship is linked to physical and psychological illness, resulting in added healthcare expenses people can't afford.
  • The gig economy – think Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy – is marketed as a 'be your own boss' revolution, but it can be dehumanizing and dangerous; every worker is disposable.
  • The cooperative business model can help reverse wealth inequality.
Keep reading Show less