While receiving gifts can be exciting, research and experts say that the act of giving could actually make us feel better than receiving.
Studies show that when we get a gift or experience an act of generosity, our bodies release a hormone call oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of love and trust. The presence of this hormone also makes the recipient more likely to also act generously, which could explain the reason for “pay it forward” occurrences. So, it’s no surprise to read then, that numerous studies have shown that spending money on others or making a charitable donation actually makes us happier than when we are on the receiving end.
Giving is also just plain good for you! It doesn’t matter whether you’re younger or older either; generosity has been seen to promote better health among people of all ages. A Johns Hopkins University study suggests that a giver’s improved physical health, and even longevity of life, could be attributed to decreased stress levels when giving.
Additionally, giving helps promote positive social connection and community. Exchanges of giving between two people, or in a “pay it forward” manner, create bonds of trust and goodwill that help to foster relationships and cooperation amongst groups. Showing gratitude also plays a factor in this type of relationship building and strengthening. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” notes Barbara Fredrickson author of the book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”
After learning all the benefits of giving, the question begs to be asked – so why don’t we give more? It could be that it seems too difficult or time-consuming (if this applies to you, check out Give Directly for an easy way of donating!). Whatever the reason that may be holding us back from giving, I encourage you to break past those inhibitions this week and either donate time or money to a cause you care about – I think you’ll be happy you did.