I was very pleased to read the other day that giving happiness is found to be much more self-satisfying than receiving it. Scientists have revealed in a recent study that to give really is tantamount to receiving, after discovering that ‘the warm glow’ of acting generously shows up in brain scans. Treating others also makes you happy in the long run, they said. In the first study to look at the general effects of generosity, neuroscientists promised fifty people the equivalent of £20 a week for a month, asking half to treat themselves with the money and half to spend it on someone else.
Those considering buying dinner or a present for someone else saw the ‘happiness’ part of their brain light up more than those who kept the money for themselves. Lead researcher Dr Soyoung Park, from the University of Lubeck in Germany, said: ‘We already knew that when people behaved generously they reported being more happy, but we did not know why. The results of this study show this is happening in the brain in a network linking the regions involved with generosity and happiness. This is in line with the evolutionary point of view that as social creatures, human society benefits when we help each other. This may be why the brain gives us this reward when we act selflessly.’ Her study, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that ‘generous behaviour’ is driven by the positive emotion (also termed ‘warm glow’) that it evokes.
I have often experienced what the study terms ‘warm glow’ when giving, especially to someone who impulsively shows signs of great joy upon receiving whatever the act entailed. I am truly chuffed to know that in general most of our genes are basically geared to generosity in preference to selfishness, although it is hard to see it today, when money seems to rule our behaviour, and not inclusive to the benefit of those in need.