The gifts under the tree have been unwrapped and the sounds of children’s glee have died down and as we reflect on the reason for the season, on the One who gave the greatest gift of all, how do we feel? From what did we receive the most joy? The act of giving or receiving?
Joy, after the satisfaction of giving? Or down after all the receiving?
If you are experiencing joy from the act of giving then you fall into the group of people who experienced the same joy in two new studies that were completed recently.
The studies were conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University and the results show that when we give to others it makes us happier than when we give to ourselves, especially over a sustained period of time.
The first study involved 96 college students who were given $5 each for five days and were told to spend the money in the same way for each of those five days. Students were randomly chosen to either give the money away or to spend it on themselves. They were also to report at the end of the day on how they felt. It turns out that the group who spent the money on themselves began to feel less satisfied in doing so with each succeeding day. But the group that spent their money on others even though it was spent in the same way every day reported feeling the same joy on the last day as they did at the beginning.
In the second study 502 people were given a nickel reward for every online puzzle game they won and they could choose to keep it or donate it to their favorite charity.
This time the researchers found that those who gave were happier longer than those who kept their winnings and spent it on themselves.
Researchers compare these feelings of let down after repeated self-indulgence as hedonistic adaptation. Joy from self-indulgence is fleeting. But the joy received in giving to others brings lasting joy.
Why is this? Researchers explain it this way: when we spend on ourselves we tend to compare it to the last time we did and it seems never to be enough. But when we give to others there’s a freedom and a satisfaction that cannot be compared because we have removed that hedonistic aspect of ourselves. And we then experience the joy that is new and fresh each time!
This is an innate quality that resides in every human being which was placed in us by our Creator: to give…then receive joy in the giving!