Scientists may have finally discovered the key to being happier and it does involve money — well, it sort of does, but not in the way one might think. So what is it that Scientists have discovered about happiness?
A new study, published in the journal Nature, found that generosity made people happier. Prior studies have found conclusive links between selflessness and happiness, however they hadn’t officially investigate the actual mechanical link between the two.
Generous behavior is known to increase happiness, which could thereby motivate generosity. In this study, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and a public pledge for future generosity to investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behavior with increases in happiness. Participants promised to spend money over the next 4 weeks either on others (experimental group) or on themselves (control group). Here, we report that, compared to controls, participants in the experimental group make more generous choices in an independent decision-making task and show stronger increases in self-reported happiness. Generous decisions engage the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in the experimental more than in the control group and differentially modulate the connectivity between TPJ and ventral striatum. Importantly, striatal activity during generous decisions is directly related to changes in happiness. These results demonstrate that top–down control of striatal activity plays a fundamental role in linking commitment-induced generosity with happiness. – Nature Communications
The study concluded that there is a definite correlation between generosity and personal happiness — those who consciously chose to be generous had a demonstrable physical reaction in the part of the brain linked to happiness and the reward cycle.
They study also concluded that while generosity may be costly to the giver, the resulting feeling of happiness outweighed that:
Human societies benefit from their members’ generous behavior, such as donating to charity or volunteering one’s time. Generous behavior is costly as it involves the investment of one’s own resources for the benefit of others. Nevertheless, generous behavior is common and occurs even in situations in which reputation or the reinforcing experience of relieving a recipient’s distress are irrelevant. For these reasons, standard economic theory fails to explain generous behavior. Research in the field of psychology suggests that a possible motive for generous behavior is the increased happiness with which it is associated. – Nature Communications
“You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice.” – Philippe Tobler, Researcher in the Study, as quoted in Science Daily
Now we have proof of what so many of us have long known — being generous to others does indeed create happiness. So while money may not be able to buy happiness, sharing it with others pays off in the end.
The good news is, generosity doesn’t always have to come in the form of donating money. There are countless ways we can be generous with others, including donating our time in the form of volunteering for a worthy cause.
While generosity leads to feeling happier, giving has other benefits too. We know that when a person is the recipient of some form of generosity, they are more inclined to pay it forward — this creates a circle of giving and kindness that creates even more happiness and, goes a very long way in helping to heal our world.
What ways can you think of to be generous to others?