Now there is a scientific rationale for a wise old saying: It is better to give than to receive. Research out of Switzerland found that even small acts of generosity — or just promising to be charitable — triggered brain changes that make people happier.
The study team gave volunteers 25 Swiss francs a week for a month. Half the group pledged to spend the money on others, while the other half committed to spending the money on themselves. The scientists used scans to track activity in brain regions associated with socializing, decision-making and happiness. They found that brain activity associated with happiness, along with self-reported happiness, increased simply after making a commitment to be generous to others.
Happiness-related brain activity also went up when actually giving, and left givers in a happier overall state of mind than those who acted selfishly.
Interestingly, relatively small acts of giving gave rise to just as big a happiness bump as bigger acts.
The researchers think the brain is hardwired for happiness in response to giving, in other words generosity really is its own reward.