BY BROOKLYN PINHEIRO
You don’t have to quit your job and volunteer indefinitely to benefit from the power of being generous. A new study concluded that, in accordance to the popular notion, being a giving person does in fact make you happier on a neurological level. The study’s participants didn’t even have to actually be generous, only promising to do so was enough to temporarily increase happiness.
“It’s remarkable that intent alone can generate a neural change before the action is actually implemented,” study co-author Philippe Tobler said in a statement.
The study, published in Nature Communications, gave 50 participants a sum of money, half of which were to spend it on themselves, while the other half was to spend it on others however they wished. While as many who enjoy giving gifts would expect, the group that spent their money on others reported being happier than the opposing group.
The study then looked at a brain scan of all the participants, focusing on different areas. The part of the brain connected with generous behaviour (the temporoparietal junction) and the happiness area (the ventral striatum) showed a stronger connection in the generous group of participants. This was taken to show that generous behaviour increases happiness. Even the intent to be generous increased this connection and the amount of generosity didn’t have an effect on how happy the participant became.
“You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice,” said Tobler.
The study still leaves some questions to be answered such as what the affects of being generous are if you are only doing it for selfish reasons. Although if the prospect of happiness is enough to make you a more giving person, there’s probably no harm in that.