If you asked people what would make them happier, you’d likely guess they’d say more money, more sleep and more holidays to Ibiza. Because Ibiza.
But you’d be wrong.
Because scientists have discovered the key to happiness and you might be surprised at the answer.
The research at the University of Zurich found that small acts of generosity illuminate certain regions of the brain associated with social behaviour, happiness and decision-making.
They told 50 participants that they each had around 25 Swiss Francs to spend (around £20). Half of the group were instructed to use their cash buying a gift for themselves, while the other half were told to spend money on someone they knew.
Before they spent any money, everyone was asked to think about buying a present for a friend, and then identify how much they would hypothetically spend on them.
The volunteers then underwent MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behaviour, happiness and decision-making.
After performing the brain scans, the study revealed that those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions once the money was given, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves.
The people that pledged to spend on others also had more interaction in the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness.
Surprisingly, the amount spent didn’t seem to have an impact on how happy people felt – it was just the intention to be generous in itself which kicked off those warm and fuzzy feelings.
“Interestingly, changes in happiness were driven by the commitment to be generous as such, independent of the absolute monetary amount spent on others,” the researchers wrote.
“Our study provides behavioural and neural evidence that supports the link between generosity and happiness. Our results suggest that, for a person to achieve happiness from generous behaviour, the brain regions involved in empathy and social cognition need to overwrite selfish motives in reward-related brain regions,” they continued.
So if you want to get all the happiness feels, stop scrolling Instagram for your next exotic getaway and start stockpiling those random acts of kindness.
Treating your bestie to a glass of fizz and your other half to a neck rub should do the trick.
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