PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — People often say that money cannot buy happiness. It is possible that it can—if it is spent on someone else. Numerous studies have shown that donating money, or giving in any way, increases happiness.
In one study, participants were given a certain amount of money and told to spend it by the end of the day. Some were told to spend it on themselves, while others were instructed to spend it on someone else. At the end of the day, the charitable people reported higher levels of happiness than those who bought something for themselves, regardless of the amount spent.
In another study, toddlers were happier after giving away their goldfish crackers than after receiving them.
People around the world are happier when they give more. When the economic crisis struck, communities and countries that commonly practiced giving were happier. One of these countries, South Korea, implemented prosocial policies. The country’s happiness level rose after this, despite the recession.
One reason people are happier is because giving allows them to feel good about themselves. They demonstrate to themselves that they are responsible and kind. Canadian and Ugandan students were happier when just thinking about giving they had done in the past.
There are certain circumstances that boost happiness even more. According to the self-determination theory, well-being depends on “relatedness, competence, and autonomy.”
This means the most satisfying giving happens when people feel connected to the situation. They use philanthropy as a way to connect to other people, and this connection happens because the brain releases the hormone oxytocin when a person gives. This increases the feeling of togetherness and bonding.
People are also happier when their giving makes them feel better about their own abilities. People are happier with donating when they can see the product of their efforts, like seeing a picture of someone who is helped by their donation.
When people can act of their own free will and dictate how much money to give, this also leads to increased satisfaction.
There are health benefits to giving, as well, which may tie into increased happiness levels. Charity has been shown to lower stress, while increasing gratefulness and contentment with life.
Older people have shown better overall health when they volunteer their time or money. They suffered from fewer sleep disorders and had better hearing.
People suffering from chronic diseases were able to manage pain better when they practiced giving.
Over the course of a 30-year study, 52 percent of participants who did not volunteer suffered from a major illness, compared to the 36 percent of volunteering participants.
Regardless of how, doing good makes people feel good. Money twists people’s minds, making them believe that spending on themselves will make them happier.
Studies have shown that just a reminder of money was enough to make people stingier and less engaging with others, even if doing something alone meant more work for them.
Investing time, money or other resources benefits the recipients as well as the giver. Their brains just get in the way sometimes, telling them that money is better spent on themselves. No matter the amount, giving makes everyone involved feel happier.
– Monica Roth