The gift of giving: Human nature and the act of giving back

March 9, 2023
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Christmas is just days away, which means many of us have spent the last few weeks buying gifts for our loved ones…and maybe even ourselves! While it’s widely known to be the season of giving, the very act of giving has an interesting effect on us, psychologically—creating a positive spiral that makes us happy in return. 

It’s common knowledge that the act of giving makes us feel good. But did you know that it’s actually proven to make us feel better to give to others than to ourselves? In an experiment run by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, he gifted volunteers a small amount of money to spend either on themselves or on someone else. While the people that spent the money on themselves felt more or less the same after the experiment, those who gave the money away or spent it on someone else felt noticeably happier. 

This might have something to do with the way our dopamine works. When online shopping, for example, we actually get that sweet hit of happiness (aka dopamine) as we click ‘buy’, not when the product eventually shows up on our doorstep—by which time the excitement has somewhat fizzled. We feel happiness at the anticipation of a gift, not the gift itself. Giving to others, on the other hand, has been shown to afford us more long-lasting feelings of happiness

That means that, although you might think it feels good to buy yourself that new thing you’ve been wanting, if it’s true happiness you’re after, it might be worth rethinking what you spend it on. Spending even a part of that money on someone else, particularly someone in need, could be the real gift—to both you and them.  

Of course, “doing good” and “giving back” is not always about gifts. It’s about how we treat people, the choices we make and the way we live our lives. Doing good could be choosing to live more sustainably, for the planet, but also for the people who are vastly more affected by global warming in certain parts of the world. Giving back could be becoming a more ethical, kind employer, allowing your team to earn fair pay and have a good work-life balance. 

There are countless ways in which we can give back every day that will have the same effect of making us feel happier. And that’s the kind of selfishness we can abide! 

So, this holiday season, we hope you’ll enjoy doing those random acts of kindness and hope you receive a lot of it too. 

Merry Christmas, from all of us here at Remotify! 

If you want to find out how our services can make you feel happier (yes, really!) then why not get in touch with a member of our team today? 

Consider it a Christmas gift to yourself…and others!

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