We’ve all heard the campaign slogans: “because you’re worth it”, “treat yourself”, ”you deserve it”, and no doubt it’s all true, but the part they leave out is: but it’ll be even better if you give it to the person next to you.
While it is true that spending on ourselves can bring happiness, scientists are finding that we can do much more for our happiness, (not to mention our friendships and society) by spending on others.
Take this study by Lara Atkin at the University of British Colombia: Lara stood in the street with a box of sealed envelopes, and asked passers by “would you like to be in an experiment?”. If they said “yes”, then she asked them “How happy are you?”, handed them an envelope, and asked for their phone number.
All the envelopes contained some money. Some of them had instructions to spend that money on yourself. Some to spend it on others. Later that evening they got a phone call – the group who had spent on others was measurably happier than those who’d spend on themselves.
Lara’s study isn’t the only one. Many studies have reached the same conclusion – across cultures as diverse as Canada and Uganda, across all levels of income, when we spend money on others it feels a lot better than spending on ourselves.
That’s not all scientists are finding: when we give to others, we feel more connected to them (and they feel more connected to us), not only is this nice to have, it’s a growing need. In our busy urban culture people are increasingly feeling isolated and disconnected, and this has real impacts for societal well-being. So when giving to a friend or to charity, it’s not just the money that helps, but the act itself.
Many of the studies referenced in this article were found in Greater Good’s article on how to make giving feel good. Read on in their article to find the 3 keys to making giving feel really good.