The Science behind Acts of Giving
Recently, a phenomenon called Acts of Giving has been popping up all over the media. It’s even more noticeable over the festive season when we are urged to give more to others. However, being kind and giving to others has a direct impact on our own happiness levels and not just for the person we are giving to. In fact, if done well, the giver has many benefits that can last a couple of days. It’s a virtuous circle where giving to others raises our happiness level and happier people help others more. Evidence shows that givers are more satisfied with life, feel more competent, have a greater sense of meaning and usually a more positive mood.
What does it mean to give to others?
It means giving without expecting anything in return. It’s an act that requires thought and attention and we give because we care. The Act of Giving does not need to be money-based, but can be something as simple as being kind to someone, letting someone in front of the queue if they’re in a rush, listening to them, cutting colleagues slack when they are going through a hard time, giving a compliment, visiting a lonely or sick person, or carrying someone’s bag. You’re getting the gist.
You may be wondering… if Acts of Giving provide such mega-benefits to the giver, then can that not be regarded as being selfish or even altruistic? Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton Business School, identified two types of giving; selfless-givers and other-ish givers. The selfless-giver has a high interest in other people’s well-being and little interest in deriving their own benefit. The other-ish giver scores high on both counts; the other person and themselves. They have found a healthy balance of accepting kindness and giving it to others.
That being said, not all giving raises our happiness. If it is expected and not done out of our own free will or we feel socially obliged, then it is apparent that we give reluctantly and even with a degree of resentment. This will definitely not raise our happiness, but rather deplete it.
Three factors must be present for you to get an ultra-happiness boost:
- Connect – the act must increase your connection with the person; it must also be an act that you personally value
- Control – it must be done voluntarily and out of your own free will
- Impact – the act of giving should make an impactful and meaningful difference to the other person
You might be thinking that this giving stuff is all well and good, but you just don’t have the time. The Act of Giving can be a super-quick five-minute activity and doesn’t have to be long-winded.
Try these five-minute Acts of Giving
- Return someone’s call
- Connect them to someone who can assist them
- Make a person smile
- Pay for a stranger’s coffee or parking ticket
- Assist a person who is lost
- Offer change to someone who is struggling to find the right amount
- Let another car in if they find themselves in the wrong lane
- Push an elderly person’s grocery trolley
- Say thank you when being served
- Stop what you are doing and listen attentively to someone
Giving to others increases our psychological and physical well-being. It makes us happier and allows us to ask for help when we need it. Pay it forward!
Aknin, L., Dunn, E., & Norton, M. (2011). Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for positive feedback loop between pro-social spending and happiness Studies. 13(2), 347-355.
King, V. (2016). 10 Keys to Happier Living. London: Headline Publishing Group.