Why giving is good for the soul

The evidence is strong: helping others can actually boost your own wellbeing

You’re walking along the street when a scientist approaches you with a clipboard, an envelope, and a benevolent smile. Curious, you open the envelope: inside is either a $5 or $20 note. The scientist asks you to spend this money by 5pm. You can purchase anything, but it must be for yourself.

You leave, bemused, and the scientist approaches another unwary participant. This person is given the same directions, except that this time, they’re invited to spend the money on someone else.

Which situation do you think would make you the happiest: spending money on yourself or on another?

Contrary to what most people think, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that people were happier when they spent the money on other. What’s more there was no difference in happiness for the people who had $5 to give and the people who had $20 to give. The act of giving, no matter how big or small, makes us feel good.

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