A new study from the University of Zurich has found that the promise of being generous — even just a teensy bit generous — is enough to make us feel happy. It’s always been in you to give… and now there’s actual reason to believe it.
In the study, two groups of participants were given $50 to spend. The control group was instructed to spend it on themselves and the second group was to spend some of it on somebody else. While the latter group pondered how to spend the money, scientists measured their brain activity. They found that even the promise of being a little bit generous was enough to activate several happiness centres in the brain, suggesting that, ultimately, being generous leads to happiness.
Behavioral economists call the happy feeling you get when you act unselfishly the “warm glow,” (it’s an official term, look it up) and apparently it’s a state that’s not all that difficult to trigger.
“It is remarkable that intent alone generates a neural change before the action is actually implemented,” said Philippe Tobler, one of the study’s authors. “You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice.”
So while the control group did get to spend the money on themselves, which may have felt good later on, those who were told to spend it on somebody else ended up in a happier state almost immediately. And the greater the give, the greater the glow.
If you’d like to get your glow on ASAP, there are many great causes and organizations to donate to right now, including the Red Cross, which is helping to provide financial assistance, bedding and family reunification services to those impacted by the B.C. wildfires.