As humans, we only really think of gifts when it relates to gifting others on their birthdays or other different occasions. We rarely remember to do something special for ourselves once in a while, let alone making the conscious decision to go out, or online, and pick up something nice for ourselves just because. But, aside from owning something you actually want, there are other benefits of giving. And these benefits affect not only you but those around you and your community.
- Giving makes us feel happy.
Gifting yourself makes you feel happier. These good feelings are reflected in our biology. When people give gifst, to themselves or charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the ‘helper’s high’.
- Giving is good for our health.
Giving gifts help take your mind away from the things you normally would have been worrying about, even if for just a few minutes or hours. And this is great for your health. Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems.
- Giving evokes gratitude.
Gifts can elicit feelings of gratitude. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. Counting your blessing can help you cultivate gratitude causing you to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about your overall life. Cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but that of others around you as well.
- Giving is contagious.
When we give, we are not only doing it for ourselves, we also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community. When one person behaves generously to themselves, it inspires observers to behave generously later, towards themselves and different people. In fact, that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. As a result, each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met. Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breastfeeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. A dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with ‘symptoms’ lasting up to two hours. And those people on an ‘oxytocin high’ can potentially jumpstart a ‘virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s.
So whatever kind of gift you give to yourself, your giving is much more than just an intimate act from you to you. It may help you build stronger social connections and even jumpstart a cascade of generosity through your community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process.