The Gift Of Giving: Why Buying For Others Increases Our Happiness
"Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more."
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Whether it's buying a small gift, or buying a round of drinks for your colleagues to say thank you, being generous and giving thanks makes us feel happy within ourselves and also helps strengthen our relationships. This is because we, as humans, are inherently social creatures.
With the season of gift giving already in full flight, reflecting upon the feelings you experience when purchasing a gift for a loved one, friend, or colleague can be a wonderful reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.
The Gift Of Giving
In an article titled The Psychology of Gift Giving and Happiness, it explains how researchers have found that the giving of gifts provides the giver with as much satisfaction as the recipient as it enables the giver "to experience a positive self-concept, to feel generous and valuable."
In other words, purchasing gifts for others can increase our own feelings of connection and happiness.
Why It Makes Us Feel Good
"The manner of giving is worth more than the gift."
- Pierre Corneille
So, why does spending on others make us feel good? As outlined in an article called Spending Money Promoting Happiness published on the Positive Psychology Program website, it feels good because our brains have an inbuilt reward system - oxytocin - that manages how we interact with others. When we spend money to make our friends and family smile, our brain rewards us and makes us feel good.
What To Buy
"As we give presents at Christmas, we need to recognize that sharing our time and ourselves is such an important part of giving."
- Gordon B. Hinckley
Studies have shown that gifts which provide the recipient with an experience, as opposed to material possessions are more meaningful and can lead to feelings of connection.
A study carried out by Cindy Chan from the University of Toronto Scarborough's Department of Management and the Rotman School of Management, showed that experiences as gifts are more effective at improving relationships than physical gifts. Chan says, "An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it — like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa — and is more intensely emotional than a material possession."
An experience can be anything from tickets to a football match to a membership to a local art gallery, a reservation at a restaurant to a hot-air balloon ride. The choice is endless.
Make It Personal
Making the gift personal to the recipient is another important factor. For example, if the recipient enjoys painting, you could buy him or her a voucher to attend an art course, or if the person enjoys yoga, purchase classes from a local yoga studio.
Want to make the impact of the gift even stronger? Include yourself and your time. For example, rather than simply giving movie tickets, choose a movie you both have a mutual interest in and see it together. Book a table at a restaurant for the two of you. Go to a concert together. Watch a football game together.
"The greatest gift you can give someone is your time because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back."
Here's to a joyous Christmas, and the gift of giving!