“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
When it comes to giving gifts, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. There’s a lot of psychology involved with both giving and receiving gifts. It’s a ritual as well as being a concept that’s been around since records began.
Governments have been giving gifts for centuries to show goodwill and encourage peace.
Even animals try and attract mates with gifts, Bowerbirds literally create love nests filled with gifts for potential mates to inspect. But it’s not just the recipient that benefits from getting goodies, the giver also enjoys the feel good factor.
It makes us feel good
We are all familiar with that warm fuzzy feeling you get when someone just adores the gift you have given them. We often give in order to see joy from the receiver; to get affection and thanks from them. In fact, a study by Harvard Business School in 2008 (Norton et al), found that giving money to someone else made people happier than spending it on themselves!
There’s scientific theories to reinforce the theory that giving gifts makes us feel great too. Many scientists believe altruistic behaviour and giving to others releases endorphins in the brain. It’s these endorphins that give us a kind of ‘helper’s high.’
Let’s be honest: when someone is genuinely pleased with a gift we present to them, it gives us a whole load of satisfaction. Just seeing someone’s face after they have received a dream gift is enough to make people smile.
Giving gifts can be genuinely good for both your mental and physical health. Stephen Post, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University claimed that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness. Perhaps one of the reasons that gift giving aids the receivers physical health is because it may help to reduce stress and it can make us feel content. According to the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, the act of giving releases oxytocin in our brains, a hormone that induces euphoria and warmth.
It makes the receiver like us
Another reason why gift-giving can be beneficial to the giver is because ‘the objective of gift-giving is sometimes to induce the receiver to like the giver’ (Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity). Many of us crave acceptance or want approval from certain people in our lives, and giving the right gift at the right time can make you feel appreciated and liked by the recipient.
It makes us look generous
There is of course the added bonus of looking generous after you have given a gift. For some people they feel this can enhance their social status, and others simply want to appear to be a very generous person, which often gets them approval from their peers. ‘Some people act generously because they want to be praised’. (Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity)
It strengthens social bonds
Giving a gift to a friend, loved one or family member can help to improve your bond. If you are a generous person you might find your social life benefits because when you give, you are more likely to get back. Lots of studies have shown that if you give to other people, at some point later down the line you are likely to be rewarded.
Giving a gift enters two people into an unofficial contract (of sorts); I give something to you, and later, when you get the chance, you can help me in some way. It’s very rare for people to give gifts and not expect anything back or want any benefits from giving the gift. Giving gifts can promote trust and help people to experience positive social interactions. Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably (The How of Happiness).