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The Joy of Giving: Why Giving Presents Makes You Happier Than Receiving Them

Joy of Giving

It makes sense that giving gifts can make you happier than receiving them.

Just take a moment to think about the presents you have given and received over the years. You probably remember more of the wonderful presents you gave to your friends and family members than the ones you were given. After all, we always get enjoyment out of seeing our loved ones experiencing happiness.

And when you make your loved ones happy, you feel happy yourself. That is common sense. But science is now backing up what we all instinctively know to be true: giving gifts makes you happier than receiving them.

Choosing the Perfect Gift Based on Someone’s Interests (e.g. Coffee Lover)

Before we look at the science behind feeling happy from giving presents, it is worth mentioning that giving some gifts can make you feel happier than giving others.

For instance, if you need to buy a Secret Santa gift for a work colleague that you do not get on with, you will probably give little thought to the actual present and will not feel elated after your colleague has unwrapped the item.

On the other hand, when you spend a long time searching for that special gift for a dear loved one, you put a lot of motivation and positive thinking into the gift-buying process. And because you are giving to someone you care deeply about, you are sure to feel happy at making your loved one happy.

Choosing the perfect gift for a loved one, or anyone, often comes down to selecting a present based on the person’s interests. For instance, a coffee grinder or an espresso maker would make ideal gifts for people who love coffee.

The more thought and time you give to buying a present for a loved one, the happier you and your recipient will be.

What Does Science Have to Say?

Making someone else happy makes you happy, and the act can fill you with positivity, motivation, and self-worth.

But exactly why does giving presents make you happier than receiving them? Two scientific studies performed in 2018 may have the answers.

The First Experiment

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business’s Ed O’Brien and the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s Samantha Kassirer performed both of the two studies.

The first experiment involved ninety-six university students being given $5 every day for a period of five days. The students were then randomly assigned to spend the $5 on themselves or somebody else.

Using methods to measure the participants’ happiness, the researchers found that the students who spent the money on themselves saw a steady decline in their happiness.

On the other hand, those who gave their money away felt just as positive from doing so on the fifth day of the study as much as the first.

The Second Experiment

The second experiment saw the researchers asking five hundred and two participants to play ten rounds of an online word puzzle.

The participants won 5 cents per round and were given the choice to keep the money or donate it to a good cause.

After each round, the researchers measured the participants’ levels of happiness.

As with the first study, O’Brien and Kassirer discovered those who had given their winnings away reported feelings of happiness for a much longer period compared to those who kept the money for themselves.

Further analysis was conducted to rule out possible explanations, such as the idea that the participants who gave away their money had to think for longer and more carefully about what to give, which could potentially promote longer-lasting feelings of happiness.

However, the researchers measured more than a dozen such possibilities and discovered that none of them could explain the results of the experiment.

When other variables were included, the levels of happiness experienced by those who gave away their money and those who kept it remained unchanged.

The Takeaway

So, while more research needs to be completed to scientifically ascertain exactly why giving makes you happier than receiving, it seems very likely that giving really does make you feel much more elated for a longer period of time compared to receiving.

Ultimately, it surely comes down to the fact that we all instinctively like to help others and make other people feel happy. Quite simply, by giving, you make the recipient happy and you make yourself happy.

Money cannot buy happiness, but buying gifts for your loved ones can make you feel happy.

About the Author
Sarilaya Cada is a freelance content writer. She is interested in a wide range of fields, from project management, to education, to engineering.