Do you receive more joy from getting or giving gifts? A recent study from Psychological Science found that the joy of giving lasts longer than the joy of getting. Happiness that occurs after an event or experience fades over time (this is a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation), but giving to others may be an exception to that rule. So why is it that giving sustains happiness longer? The researchers suggest that when people focus on getting they may make comparisons to previous gifts whereas giving to different organizations or people may be perceived as a unique happiness-inducing event. When we give to others we reinforce our sense of belonging and connection. Prosocial behaviors and repeated giving has been found to generate pleasure even when the giving is in identical ways. So we can conclude that giving trumps getting when it comes to sustained happiness.
So what have you decided to give to others? Maybe as the new year approaches you've decided to make a positive change that benefits others and/or yourself. Think about the joy you put on others' faces when you give them a compliment or take on one of their chores. Maybe you've decided to be completely unselfish and engage in activities that someone else has chosen since being together trumps the activity itself. Giving of our time and undivided attention can be one of our greatest gifts. Forgiveness and letting go of past hurt are other valuable gifts. The gift may have more to do with making positive choices about health and well-being. Choosing to take care of ourselves can be a gift for ourselves and others. Sometimes the holidays are a time of gluttony and overindulgences, but choosing the gift of moderation can be of great value. Even living a life of integrity, morality, and respect can be a gift for those we love. When we decide to live a balanced life and value people over things we give the gift of connection.
We can give monetarily to organizations, but giving of our time and talents creates greater joy. Volunteering and being engaged in activities that directly impact others creates more joy especially if those receiving the efforts are present to acknowledge the benefit. For me as a Christian, the greatest gift is salvation through Christ's death and resurrection. Some may have a hard time accepting, believing and trusting that this gift is free or may feel that faith is all about works. Some are convinced that how much we've done determines if our relationship with God is worthy of his love, but that's not what scripture tells us. Lastly, accept this great gift and live life accordingly which means engaging in activities pleasing to our heavenly Father. He gave his Son for us, what are we giving to him in return? Let's be reminded that it is better to give than to receive.