We’ve all heard people say that it’s better to give than to receive, but would you believe that being generous is tangibly good for you? That’s right, according to Dr. Devin A. Byrd, Behavioral Sciences Department Chair at South University, there are mental health benefits to altruistic behaviors, and gift-giving is definitely among those.
From searching for just the right gift to fit your loved one’s personality to wrapping it and sending it, the very act of shopping for someone else provides “an emotional lift,” according to Dr. Byrd But even more than the ‘feel-good’ quality of giving, your generosity sparks positive memories of the person you’re shopping for which also provides a mood boost. Another bonus is that the gift itself creates a noticeable link between the two of you. Especially in this modern age, when many people will celebrate holidays at a distance from one another, the act of sending gifts when you can’t be there is a way to strengthen bonds. And of course, there’s nothing more important to mental health than your social support network. Gift-giving is a way to help keep it strong even when they’re far away.
You may be saying, “Okay, that’s great – yes, it feels good to send a gift, but it isn’t like it has any physical health benefit, right?” Wrong! There is a ton of research showing that those who are generous on a regular basis (i.e., they help out a charity, they perform random acts of kindness, they surprise people with gifts, etc.) are healthier and live longer. Stephen Post, professor of Preventative Medicine at Stony Brook University, found that regular generosity had a positive impact even on people suffering from chronic illnesses.
You might ask, “How does that work?” It turns out that things like shopping for another person, spending time helping them, and even talking to them during a time of a need, turns your focus from your own day-to-day life, and onto the other person. Researchers think that this reduces internal stress. Stress and the cortisol it produces are major factors in the development of almost every chronic disease you can think of. Reducing stress is directly linked to better health.
But perhaps the best way that giving is good for you is that it generates a sense of gratitude. “Of course it does,” you might say, “when you send a gift or spend your time, the person you give it to is thankful.” And yes, that’s true, but gift-giving also invokes a sense of gratitude in the giver! When choosing a gift, or thoughtfully supporting someone we care for, we’re often also expressing that we’re grateful for that person’s role in our lives. This creates a cycle of contentment, stress-reduction, and even creates a hormone called oxytocin, which is responsible for making us feel connected, warm, and empathetic.
I know the holiday shopping can sometimes seem like a chore, with crowds, planning, and the time crunch, but we hope this little PSA will help you keep in mind that’s not all it’s about. For every gift you decide to send, you’re recalling fond memories, reaching out to the ones you care about even from afar, and you’re preparing yourself a big dose of happiness. So when holiday shopping looks like a mountain of work remember how very true it is that it is better to give than to receive – and science proves it!
Image #1 by asenat29