Research in psychology, economics and neuroscience explore the correlational benefits of giving and happiness. Happier people give more and Giving causes happiness – operating in a circular fashion.
Happier People Give More
- An experimental study by Isen and Levin (1972) showed that participants were more likely to help others after experiencing positive events such as receiving cookies or finding money left in a payphone.
- Positive mood states have also been shown to increase altruism and increase helping and volunteering behavior (Harris & Huang 1973; Kazdin & Bryan 1971).
- Wang and Graddy (2008) suggest that happy people are both more emotionally capable to help others and have more optimistic personalities, fostering charitable giving behavior.
Thus, people who felt good were more likely to provide help.
Giving Makes People Happier
- MRI evidence shows that giving money to charity leads to similar brain activity in regions implicated in the brain for happiness and reward (Harbaugh, Mayr, and Burghart, 2007).
- Meier and Stutzer (2008) demonstrated that volunteering increases life satisfaction in a longitudinal study of German households. They found that higher levels of volunteer work were associated with higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness.
- Lyubomirsky, Tkach, and Sheldon (2004), simply ask people to commit five random acts of kindness a week for six weeks. They found that those who engaged in random acts of kindness were significantly happier than those who didn’t.
- Altruistic financial behavior, such as gift giving and charitable donations, promotes happiness (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008).
Happier people give more and giving makes people happier.
Michael Norton and his colleagues at Harvard Business School (Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, Elizabeth W. Dunn (2009). Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior, Working Paper, 10-012, Harvard Business School) examine this relationship between giving and happiness.
Using an experiment, they tested the hypothesis that spending money on others (prosocial behavior) leads to higher happiness levels than spending money on oneself (anti-social behavior).
- Participants were approached in person in the morning and asked to report their baseline happiness level.
- Each participant received either $5 or $20 and was asked to spend the money on themselves or on others.
- A follow up was done at the end of the day
- It was found that those who spent the money on others (irrespective of the amount of money one received) were happier than those who spent it on themselves
Michael Norton concludes that money can indeed buy happiness if it is spent right, if it is not spent on the wrong things, if it is not spent on oneself J
You can watch him explain this at TEDx Cambridge: http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness.html
Giving, certainly does make one HAPPY.