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Being generous is the key to happiness, says study

And, it promises to give you a ‘warm glow’

Sarah Young
Monday 17 July 2017 15:44 BST
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Treating yourself might seem like the perfect solution when you’re feeling a little down but according to new research, splashing the cash on someone else could make you feel happier in the long run.

Exploring the connection between generosity and happiness, researchers at the University of Zurich divided 50 participants into two groups – experimental and control – who were each told they would be given 25 Swiss francs each week for the next month.

While the experimental group were told to commit to spending their money on other people by buying gifts or taking them to dinner, the control group were told to spend the money on themselves.

Scans conducted by the researchers revealed that neurons in the area of the brain associated with generosity, the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) activated neurons in the ventral striatum, which is associated with happiness.

This process was highly active in the experimental group who acted generously.

In each trial, the participants were also given an option they could either accept or reject which meant someone else would gain money while they lost it.

And, while the financial hit varied, it always involved some kind of personal sacrifice.

The participant’s happiness was also measured using a subjective happiness scale before and after this exercise with researchers finding that the experimental group was more likely to make generous choices than the control group. They also reported a greater increase in happiness.

The data also showed that when people were behaving generously, areas of the brain elated to reward, happiness and empathy became active.

‘We find that a public pledge to be generous efficiently boosted generous behaviour and happiness in experimental relative to control participants, who had committed to spend money on themselves,” the researchers wrote.

“Our study provides behavioural and neural evidence that supports the link between generosity and happiness.”

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