The science behind the benefits of giving gifts


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On the surface, there isn’t much to gain when it comes to freebies.

After all, you are doing all you can – wasting time and money – to buy someone else a gift.

And yet, it’s hard to deny the warm, fuzzy feeling that floods your heart when someone opens a Christmas present for you.

But giving gifts doesn’t just make us feel good, it’s also good for our health and well-being.

Food for the soul

Nate Sattazahn, an advisor to Penn State Health Medical Psychiatry, explained that dopamine – the “feel good” hormone – is released when we give or receive gifts.

“I am giving you a gift, and it helps me, because now your opinion of me is changing and it makes me feel good,” Sattazahn said.

“Conversely, you receive a gift from me and it reinforces the fact that I love you or that I care about you, and it makes you feel good.”

Mr Sattazahn said that giving gifts is also about appreciating the relationships in our lives.

“We all want to be common, to integrate and be part of a community,” he said.

Giving and receiving gifts shows that you care.

The research gathered by the University of Melbourne Center for Positive Psychology discovered the benefits of giving – giving gifts, money, advice, support, help or volunteering – reducing blood pressure, improving sleep and being linked to lower rates of heart disease .

Giving for purely selfish reasons, however, did not bring these benefits.

When the gifts came from a place of genuinely caring or a desire to bond with others, only then were people more likely to feel the positive effects.

It’s the thought that matters

Even thinking about being generous is good for you.

In a 2017 study, researchers in Switzerland told 50 people they would receive 25 Swiss francs per week ($ 38).

Half of these people were told that they would spend the money on themselves (control group), while the other half would spend it on someone they knew (experimental group).

The researchers then performed functional MRI scans on the participants to measure brain activity associated with generosity and happiness.

The results revealed that a simple public pledge to be generous stimulated happiness and generous behavior in the experimental group, compared to those in the control group.

The researchers found this particularly striking, as the participants had neither received nor spent the money at the time of the experiment.

What kind of gift?

According to Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, there are two strategies for finding the right gift.

One is “recipient-centered”, in which you choose a gift that reflects the qualities or interests of the person for whom you are buying. And the other option is “donor-centric,” where the gift reflects your own personality or interests.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that people reported feeling closer when they received a donor-centered gift.

“It seems that it makes more sense to give gifts that reflect your own personality or tastes, rather than trying to prove how well you know a person by buying something you know. think they will like “, Dr Swami said.

He explained that a common trap with recipient-centered gifts is guessing what someone would like.

In these situations, it is better to simply ask what the person has on their wish list.

“Research shows that while donors assume that people will like requested and unrequested gifts alike, recipients are in fact showing a preference for the gifts they requested directly, ”said Dr Swami.

All gifts must not be wrapped either.

Research conducted by Cornell University showed experiential gifts, such as special dinner or parachute jump, can bring more satisfaction and happiness only material gifts.

Compared to material gifts, experiential gifts can improve social relationships more effectively, constitute a greater part of a person’s identity, and evoke fewer social comparisons than material purchases.


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