Helping others may help you!

A recent study has shown a link between generosity and happiness. Participants were randomly divided into two groups. Members of each group were given a sum of money. The experimental group were tasked to publicly pledge to spend the money on others. The control group were tasked to spend the money on themselves.

After having declared their pledge, each participant was asked to perform an independent decision-making task by which the researchers measured generosity.  An fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan of their brain activity was done during the performance of this task.

People who had pledged to spend money on others exhibited greater levels of generosity. They also showed a greater increase in their levels of happiness than the control group. Eliciting a public pledge has for some time been widely known as a technique to motivate generous behaviour. This particular study demonstrated that being generous has positive impacts on a person’s happiness. In short: commitment to generosity induces generous behaviour, which increases happiness. The study concluded that most people underestimate the link between generosity and happiness. And that they therefore overlook the benefits that prosocial spending can have on their happiness.


First, assess your current level of happiness. On a 0-10 scale where zero is no happiness and 10 is absolute happiness, where do you stand right now? Proceed by bringing yourself into a relaxed state of mindful awareness. Take a few deep breaths, a few mindful yawns. Yawning is the quickest way to eliminate excessive neural stress. Add a few super-slow movements, noticing any sensations, pains and aches. Your brain is sending relaxation signals to your muscles. When you have reached a deeply relaxed state, think of how you could benefit others in the next week. Pledge yourself to an act of generosity. It may be a monetary gift, a gift of time or another act beneficial to other people. But remember: to be a real act of generosity, it needs to have an associated cost for you. Once you’ve made your pledge, notice how it makes you feel. Assess your subjective level of happiness now. Notice if it has improved compared to the beginning of this exercise. Then proceed to fulfill your pledge and enjoy the double happiness it brings: to the recipient and to you.


Park SQ, Kahnt T, Dogan A, Strang S, Fehr E, Tobler PN. A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nat Commun. 2017;8:15964. Published 2017 Jul 11. doi:10.1038/ncomms15964

Figure 3. Commitment to be generous enhanced TPJ activity during decisions to be generous.
(a) Compared to the control group participants, the experimental group participants showed significantly greater TPJ activation ((−51, −70, 34), t(46)=4.70) while accepting versus rejecting a personal cost to benefit another person. (b) Parameter estimates of the accept versus reject contrast, extracted from the TPJ region that showed significant group differences. Error bars are s.e.m.

Published by Jitka Horcickova

You know how some people get bullied in the workplace? And sometimes flashbacks from the past are haunting them even years after they left that situation? Well, what I do is to help them remove the emotional charge from their traumatic experiences and find their path to freedom.

%d bloggers like this: