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The Sweet Pursuit

Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive

Money Can Buy Happiness: Give It Away

Money origami 

You may have tried buying your way to happiness with new shoes and elaborate getaways; tickets to the big game and a sweet rebuilt guitar; the more-than-twelve-dollar bottle of wine and anything from MartinPatrick3. But recent studies suggest a different method: Give away money and get happy.

Researchers find that donating money to a deserving cause or financially helping a friend or family member in need raises the happiness level of the giver, writes Linda Wasmer Andrews in Psychology Today. She lists several reasons for the uptick:

First, it may foster a sense of social connectedness. One theory posits that the more modest your means, the more you and your close family and friends may need to rely on one another to get by; hence, the greater focus on generosity.

Second, donating money gives you a sense of making a difference. That’s a welcome antidote to the feeling of helplessness that can come from watching wild stock market gyrations and wildly frustrating budget stalemates.

Interestingly, there’s a negative physical response to being closefisted with your cash:

[S]haring even a little money may reduce your body’s stress response. [Psychologist] Elizabeth Dunn…led another recent study that looked at how monetary stinginess affects cortisol, a stress hormone. In the study, college students played an economic game, for which they were paid $10. Students had the option of donating some of this payment to another player. Those who kept more of the money for themselves reported feeling more shame. And greater shame, in turn, predicted higher levels of postgame cortisol.

In these times of economic disparity and the 99 percent vs. the 1, doling out money to achieve happiness can seem futile, but Andrews suggests there’s power in the giving. “A case can be made that giving away a few bucks is good not only for your soul, but also for your mind and body,” she writes. “No matter the amount, reminding yourself that you still have the wherewithal to share could be just what you need.”

Source: Psychology Today  

Image by josey4628, licensed under Creative Commons.