clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Strange but true: Daily giving is good for giver

Question: Paying a compliment, telling a funny joke, sending a thank-you note, listening to someone attentively, donating to a hunger center, teaching a child to read, extending forgiveness to someone who has wronged you. ... What might all of these have to do with your own well-being?

Answer: They're just a few of the myriad ways of "giving" to others, whether to family, friends, the community. And giving is the most potent force on the planet, the one kind of love you can count on because you can always choose it, say Stephen Post and Jill Neimark in "Why Good Things Happen to Good People." "Most of us can recall with radiant clarity those moments when giving was receiving, when another's happiness was our own."

Now here's the remarkable part. Over 50 studies at 44 major universities and funded by Case Western University Medical School have shown that generous behavior will reduce your risk of illness and mortality and that benevolent acts have a deep and lasting impact on your mental health, with these protections still intact decades later. Want more? Giving is also linked to traits of a successful life, i.e., social competence, empathy, tolerance, respect and positive emotion. "By learning to give, you become more effective at living itself."

So, say the authors, "Give daily in small ways and you will be happier, healthier and even live longer."

Question: You know what you get when you milk a cow but what about a horse? Which product is closer to Mom's own milk?

Answer: Mare's milk is lighter and sweeter than cow's milk, with notes of watermelon and wild grass and a nutty undertone, says "New Scientist" magazine.

Fact is, it was popular in Europe early last century, so much so that in Germany it was delivered door to door and is making a comeback today in Belgium, France, Norway. While mostly sold as a freeze-dried powder, mare's milk can be found fresh in various Parisian outlets but it's not cheap—12 euros ($16.50) for a quarter liter. It has been touted as a health elixir of sorts, and for one group this certainly seems true: Infants with severe food allergies will often tolerate mare's milk better than other types. In central Asia, mare's milk is a staple — especially with a kick. In Mongolia and elsewhere, the tradition is to ferment it in a horsehide sack until it turns into a frothy alcoholic drink.

Question: "Hey sweetie, look into my true blue eyes and tell me something about them I don't already know. If you've only got eyes for me, are you up to the challenge?"

Answer: "Up and more, my love, for I see by your dilated pupils and rapid blinking that you're emotionally supercharged, which I trust is in my favor. Our eyes evolved as billboards to communicate emotion, and yours are doing so in bold letters. As to your fetching blues, what appears to be a uniform iris is actually a kaleidoscope of hues, iridescent and intricately patterned.

"The human eye works in mysterious ways, as I know from Simon Ings's book 'The Eye: A Natural History.' We spend much of our waking hours functionally 'blind' in that our eyes move about three times per second, forcing the brain to ignore visual signals to save us from perpetual seasickness. That's about 10 percent percnet of seeing time eclipsed; for the rest, we focus on only 1 percent of what is around us. Moreover, whatever we do see is already in the past, since there's roughly a half-second delay from an image registering on the retina to our becoming aware of it. In truth, eye-weirdness begins even before birth, when the not-pitch-blackness of the womb aids our development of nocturnal vision. Then at birth, we can barely see in daylight.

"I see now by your shining orbs that I have met your challenge and hope for more such shining moments to come."

Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at, coauthors of "Can a Guy Get Pregnant? Scientific Answers to Everyday (and Not-So- Everyday) Questions," from Pi Press.