For more happiness…give more and give better!

For more happiness…give more and give better!

A timeley reminder at this time of year…

by Brady Josephson 

Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain acts in a similar way to when you are having sex or eating chocolate? It's true. Thanks to fMRI technology, researchers are able to see brain activity when certain acts are taken and in a study on charitable giving when people donated to a worthy cause, the midbrain region of the brain lit up. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings (food and sex) and pleasure rewards, showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure (Note: To my knowledge no study has been done looking at our brain activity when we have sex AND eat chocolate so I can't say that giving to charity is similar to doing both at the same time. Although, I'm personally volunteering for that study in case you are a researcher who wants to look into this further).

This reward or pleasure response to giving is the physiological reason behind the 'warm glow' or that good feeling you get when you give and why you may choose to spend money on others or charity compared to yourself. But does giving actually make you happier? According to a survey and study by researchers Dunn, Akin, Aknin and Norton, it does.

After finding that people who spent a higher proportion of their income on prosocial spending (gifts for others and donations to charity) compared to personal spending (bills/expenses and gifts on themselves) were 'happier' in a self reported survey, the researchers set up a real-world experiment. Randomly assigned people were put into four groups that were to spend $5 on themselves, $20 on themselves, $5 on others or $20 on others. Those who spent $5 or $20 on others reported being much happier while those that spent money on themselves showed no change in happiness. Also of note, the group that gave away $5 was just as happy as the group that had $20 to give away showing that happiness in giving can be more about the how as opposed to the how much (more on that later).

So giving gives you pleasure and can make you happier. And while there are many reasons why you don't give (here are six of them according to Peter Singer, author of The Life You Can Save) I want to focus on 5 ways you can maximize your happiness when you do give based on some research summarized in the book Science of Giving: An Experimental Approach to the Study of Charity.

5 Ways You Can Maximize Your Happiness When Giving

1. Give to very specific projects.

When organizations are framed in real tangible ways, you give three times more to support them. And you feel better when you do. When projects are framed in real tangible ways, you give twice as much. And you feel better when you do. When you feel like you're giving directly to programs (and not 'overhead') you give three times as much. And feel better when you do (Note: 'overhead' not being a part of the cause is utter nonsense and destructive to charity overall, watch this great TED Talk from Dan Pallotta if you want to learn more)…

…keep reading the full article HERE