Tis the season of gift giving! Sure, Christmas may be over, but many people still find themselves heading to a few holiday parties scattered throughout the month. It’s always fun to open presents, but it turns out that being generous and giving gifts to others can actually give you a boost of happiness too. One study that was published in 2009 suggested that being on the receiving end of generosity can trigger a release of oxytocin, which is a hormone commonly associated with feelings of love and trust.
While many of us believe that spending money on ourselves will make us happier, we actually get happier when we spend that money on others. When you spend money on others there is a physiological response that causes your brain’s pleasure and reward centers to light up as if you were the recipient of the good deed. You get an instant boost of feel-good endorphins, just like a runner’s high. In fact, when you do a single act of kindness, this can inspire others to do several more acts of generosity, because recipients of kindness are more likely to pass it forward.
Even if you can’t physically give a lot, start with a domino effect for the warm and fuzzy feelings. For example, maybe offer your seat to someone else on a crowded train or bus, pick up some trash on your walk home or try inviting a neighbor over for dinner. Before you run out and spend too much (more) money this season, try to be thoughtful and unique in your giving. For example, create an experience like a vacation or day trip for a loved one. Or maybe buy someone a cooking or music lesson, or tickets to a sporting event or concert.
Don’t be stingy this season (or ever!), as giving will give you a happy high.