Generous people are happier
People who give more are happier. That’s the finding of a new University of Zurich study, which found that generosity (even in small doses) makes people happier.
Apparently, our generosity – or even just a promise to give more – triggers a change in the brain that makes us happier.
While it may seem like a no-brainer (pun intended), until now researchers didn’t know why giving made us feel good. And so the group of neuroeconomists set out to see what areas of the brain connect to produce the feeling.
A little generosity goes a long way
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the study is that it doesn’t matter how generous you are. Even just a little bit of generosity can trigger the feel-goods.
“You don't need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice," said researcher Philippe Tobler.
Generosity and the brain
So exactly what does happen in the brain when we act generously?
The researchers found a connection between three brain areas:
- Temporoparietal junction: where generosity is processed.
- Ventral striatum: linked to happiness
- Orbitofrontal cortex: where we assess pros and cons when making a decision.
When we’re selfish or generous, these three brain areas interact in different ways. And even just having the intention to be selfish or generous can prompt the brain changes.
Researchers still have some questions to explore:
"Promising to behave generously could be used as a strategy to reinforce the desired behaviour, on the one hand, and to feel happier, on the other.”
Study co-author Soyoung Park also said, "There are still some open questions, such as: Can communication between these brain regions be trained and strengthened? If so, how? And, does the effect last when it is used deliberately, that is, if a person only behaves generously in order to feel happier?"