Even a small amount of generosity towards others makes people happier, psychological research finds.
In fact, merely promising to be more generous is enough to trigger changes in our brain that lead to greater happiness.
People in the study did not need to be extremely generous to see the benefits to happiness levels.
Dr Philippe Tobler, one of the study’s authors, said:
“You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier.
Just being a little more generous will suffice.”
Brain scans revealed that even the intent to be generous was linked to activity in the ventral striatum, an area important in the feeling of happiness.
Dr Tobler said:
“It is remarkable that intent alone generates a neural change before the action is actually implemented.
Promising to behave generously could be used as a strategy to reinforce the desired behavior, on the one hand, and to feel happier, on the other.”
People were also asked about their happiness levels before and after the experiment.
Those who had been more generous during the experiment were happier.
Dr Soyoung Park, the study’s first author, said:
“There are still some open questions, such as: Can communication between these brain regions be trained and strengthened?
If so, how?
And, does the effect last when it is used deliberately, that is, if a person only behaves generously in order to feel happier?”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications (Park et al., 2017).