We’ve all been there: Half way through your holiday shopping and there’s that sinking feeling that it’s all just too much about stuff. But here’s the trick: It turns out that gift-giving can bring happiness to the both the gift giver and receiver. The trick is knowing the difference between material excess and true experience. In a fascinating article, sociologist and happiness researcher Christine Carter delves into the data to discover what impact different gifts have on the brain. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Material gifts often trigger the reward center of the brain, causing a surge in dopamine. That’s what explains that initial hit of pleasure when you get a gift, followed by an almost immediate hankering for — you guessed it — more.
2. Experience gifts (tickets to a play, a trip, dinner out), on the other hand, stimulate our sense of love, connection and inspiration. These feelings are far less fleeting and provide a more lasting sense of happiness.
3. Gifts that give are the true home-run when it comes to happiness. It turns out humans love nothing more than to give, and nothing like it brings us quite as much happiness. Want to give the ultimate gift? Opt for gifts that enable the receiver to pay it forward in unique ways like these.
Read Christine Carter’s full article here.