Cultivate Blog

Posted by Jenny McGee on 1/16/24 9:00 AM

It’s common knowledge that receiving and giving gifts makes us feel good. But did you know that gifting can go deeper and affect your health? Neuro- and Psychological research proves the benefits of gifts — not just as a positive experience for the recipient but also for the giver. New studies are finding that a great gift experience can elicit long-term positive emotions, promote cooperation and social connection, improve physical health, and decrease stress. But does it really? This week, the gifting experts review the research.


The emotional benefits

Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, performed a study that found that human beings tend to feel happier when giving a gift to someone else than when we buy something for ourselves. Generous behavior produces pleasurable feelings, including stimulating the neurocircuits involved in reward, the same circuits activated by eating, receiving money, and sex.  Happiness expert and psychology professor at the University of California, Sonja Lyubomirsky, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.

Lyubomirsky’s study found that when people give gifts, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. This process can also extend beyond the giver and recipient; when we do something nice for another person, the other person may be more apt to pay it forward.


The social benefits
Several studies have suggested that when you give to others, you will likely be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else. What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind leads you to perceive others more positively,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

The research also found that gifts can elicit feelings of gratitude, and gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or colleague strengthens our sense of connection to that person. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health.

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The health benefits
A wide range of research has linked different forms of giving to better health. Researchers suggest that prosocial behavior (thinking about others instead of oneself), like gifting, improves the immune system, reduces blood pressure, and alleviates stress. In a study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who valued giving [gifts] to others had a direct physiological benefit than participants who didn’t.

Neurologists suggest that our brains are wired to derive pleasure from giving. Studies have actually found quantitative evidence that we feel a greater sense of happiness when spending money on others as opposed to when we spend the money on ourselves. One study from the University of Zurich found that even planning to give a gift stimulates the parts of the brain related to altruism and happiness. 

People even benefit just from the look on the recipient’s face when they open their gift, providing a psychological euphoria to the giver and triggering the release of endorphins into their brain, similar to a touch workout or falling in love. With a 2022 Gallup poll finding that Americans spend $932 on gifts per year, it’s safe to say that gifting is an investment in your health. But don’t forget, there’s more to gifting than how much is spent. The research found it’s more important to make sure your gift is something the receiver wants. Receiving a gift we like can release pleasurable chemical responses in the brain, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.

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Given all of the research conducted, it’s safe to say that introducing gifting year-round is the best thing you can do for your health in 2024. 😉 It can help you build stronger social connections, live a longer, healthier life, and even jumpstart a cascade of gratitude through your workplace or community. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a great gift experience with Cultivate in more ways than one. As the Gifting Experts, we’ve tapped into the science of gifting that leaves everyone feeling better than when they started.

To explore gifting programs that improve the health and morale of your network, look no further than Cultivate! Connect with one of our Gifting Experts to find which Online or On-site Gifting solution will work best for your company’s goals and needs.

Connect with a Gifting Expert

Topics: Experts

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