How Generosity Changes Your Brain
Imagine you're really selfish. How should you spend your resources to maximize
Instead of buying more stuff for yourself, research suggests that giving to people or causes you care about is more likely to do the trick. Giving not only helps others, but it also rewards yourself in measurable ways, so much so that it may even increase your lifespan. People seem to understand this intuitively.
"When we tell people, "Hey, did you know that giving to other people can make you happy?" most people are not blown away," Michael Norton, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, told Big Think. "They understand. They've had [charitable] experiences that make them happy."
However, it's harder to understand why giving makes us happy. That's partly because receiving money feels rewarding, too, and also because certain approaches to giving seem to be more effective than others both in terms of making us feel good and helping us to make giving a habit.
The benefits of giving
A growing body of research has revealed numerous psychological and physiological benefits of giving, challenging common conceptions about the relationship between money and happiness. In 2008, for example, Norton and his colleagues conducted a study where they gave $5 or $20 to people and then instructed them to spend it either on themselves or someone else.
Later that evening, the researchers checked in with the participants to see how they felt emotionally. The group that gave money to others reported feeling happier over the course of the day. What's more, the results showed no emotional difference between people who received $5 and those who got $20.
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