The Secret Reason Why We’re So Generous

Humans are innately generous because it feels good.

While that might seem self-evident to some, there is now scientific proof to substantiate what has long been suspected. Results of a study published in Nature Communications finds that, using MRI technology, there is a direct neural link between choosing generous behaviors and the sensation of happiness. Researchers gave 50 people the choice of considering spending money on themselves or on others; those giving to others showed heightened activity in the portion of the brain where happiness is registered, while those planning a shopping trip for themselves felt none of it. None of that is surprising to Dr. Bradley Smith, University of Houston psychology professor and Director of the School Psychology Ph.D. Program, who says feeling gratitude has a similar reaction.

“There’s a researcher named Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, who developed a theory called the Broaden and Build Theory, which shows that when people express gratitude they get a cascade of positive emotion that has a lot of positive benefits, including feeling closer to other people, and feeling more curious,” Dr. Smith tells KTRH News, and connects the dots of positivity between the two studies.

Whether it is an expression of generosity or gratitude, for whatever reason we human animals chose to put others before ourselves, it is the giver who reaps the greatest emotional benefits. “It may be part of the human machine that there’s some reason, biologically, for us to be rewarded for doing nice things to other people,” suggests Dr. Smith.

Reward yourself. If you want to have a good day today, give to others, and be awash in gratitude wherever you find it.

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