Why Gift Giving is Actually the Gift that Keeps on Giving
We’ve all heard the cliché: It’s better to give than to receive. While the child in you probably still really enjoys getting a present wrapped in a big bow, the adult in you realizes that you really can get a lot out of giving to someone else.
Gift giving produces an array or emotions and reactions, but something bigger is actually happening. Science is happening. Your brain, mind, body and spirit are reacting to gift giving in ways you don’t even realize. Here’s a little insight into the science behind gift giving – and why it really IS better to give than to receive.
The Emotions Behind Giving
Think for a second about all the emotions that go into giving a gift to someone you love. You brainstorm potential gifts and shop for the perfect thing that proves how well you know the recipient. You wrap the gift, artfully and lovingly, making sure it looks as nice as possible to really drive home the fact that you care. You’re feeling pretty proud of yourself, and very excited – you can’t wait to see your loved one’s face when they open this gift!
Once you give the gift, you’ll probably feel thrilled. You’ll smile and laugh. If your friend’s a good person, he or she will hug you, kiss you, and most certainly thank you. You’re both flying high from the simple act of gift giving. You’ve got the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made someone's day, and your friend has the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that someone cares about them deeply. It’s truly a win/win situation.
Gift Giving Increases Happy Hormones
Science has shown that giving in general creates joy and happiness, and can even improve a person’s overall health. And for that, we can thank dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, neurochemicals known as the Happiness Trifecta. Gift giving is an activity that increases the production of these neurochemicals, therefore producing a boost in mood.
You might think the tingly blast of gift giving pleasure is enough, but there’s actually more happening inside your body - things that might even be more important and beneficial to your health.
Serotonin influences brain cells that are related to mood balance, body processes like memory and learning, and even some social behavior. Dopamine is connected to arousal and motivation. Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it’s released when people bond physically, socially or emotionally. When oxytocin begins to flow, it triggers a chain reaction of good things. Blood pressure decreases, feelings of trust and empathy are enhanced, and even the ability to bond increases. Releasing these chemicals at the same time can bring on a slew of body benefits – making gift giving the gift that truly keeps on giving.
All Types of Giving are Healthy – Big or Small
It’s important to remember that giving doesn’t just mean buying tons of expensive gifts for friends and family during the holidays or birthdays. Even the smallest act of kindness can kick your Happiness Trifecta into gear, like holding the door for a stranger, shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line, or even just taking the time to smile and acknowledge someone.
As humans, we always liked to believe the old cliché that “giving is better than receiving” because it means we’re not selfish people. But according to science, the act of giving is physically, mentally and emotionally beneficial. So give as much as you can as often as you can - even if it’s for your own selfish reasons.