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Giving Tuesday: How to donate, what to give and the health benefits behind generosity

Why does giving back make us feel good?
Why does giving back make us feel good? 02:22

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Giving Tuesday is a global day of generosity, when people make donations to all kinds of organizations. It has become one of the biggest fundraising dates on the calendar.

But it's not just about money, people can donate time, food and even parts of themselves.

David Kornwolf received the ultimate gift: a second chance at life. 

One person gave their heart for Giving Tuesday, another gave them a ride to get that heart 01:33

"If it wasn't for Jay, I don't think I'd be here today and I mean that," Kornwolf said. 

Jay Toland volunteers with an organization called The Heart-Brothers Foundation, a nonprofit that provides resources to heart failure patients.

After months on the transplant list, a donor was finally found for Kornwolf. But there was one problem, he had no way to get to the hospital. Desperate for a ride to get the transplant, Kornwolf found Toland's card and called him.

"I got the call and I looked at my wife and she said 'Jay go, this what you do," Toland said. 

Toland, a heart transplant patient himself, said it was an easy decision to give back.

"This one heart that I got saved two lives already," he said. 

And now they have two transplanted hearts, both full of gratitude.

Doctors say more people are now living with donated hearts because medical technology has advanced so much. On this Giving Tuesday, the Gift of Life program is encouraging more people to become donors.

Why does giving make us feel good?

There's research and brain imaging that shows being generous or volunteering has a variety of benefits.

Michelle Rockwood's children are donating to a giving machine that will provide items to people in need.

"I love that they get to feel that they're giving back and it was personal to them," Rockwood said. 

"People always seem to find those deep reserves," said Asha Curran, the CEO of

Curran said this day is attracting a growing number of people who donate.

"They want to give because giving collectively feels great," she said.  

And there's research that shows why. 

"Helping other people is an example of a win/win situation. Not only does it benefit the receiver, but it also creates a boomerang effect where the positive impact comes back to you, boosting your physical and your mental health," Dr. Susan Albers, with the Cleveland Clinic, said. 

Studies have shown people who volunteer may have lower blood pressure, live longer and tend to be happier.

That's because when you help someone, your brain secretes "feel good" chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine.

It also releases endorphins and the hormone oxytocin, which makes people feel connected to others.

"Making a financial contribution is one way that you can contribute to a cause that you care about or a nonprofit," Albers said. "You can also contribute by volunteering your time, your energy, your skill, your expertise to a local organization, such as a food pantry or an animal shelter."

Researchers say the psychological benefits of giving are often referred to as the "helper's high."

Another benefit of giving, doctors say it gives people a sense of purpose.

Since Giving Tuesday started 10 years ago, Americans have used the day to donate more than $10 billion.

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