It truly is better to give than receive, particularly when it comes to your health. So says new scientific research that finds people usually feel good when they make a charitable donation, and feel even better if they the gift is made directly to someone they know or in a way that builds social connection.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development, are based on three studies of charitable donations that concluded donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative, or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous gift to a worthy cause.
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Lara Aknin of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, said the research has implications for not-for-profit organizations hoping to maximize donations, suggesting that recruiting advocates and helping them build on their social connections could have benefits for the donors too.
Aknin suggested the positive emotions generated by such charitable donations might even lead to more frequent and perhaps bigger gifts or encourage happy donors to become advocates for a given cause or benefit themselves.
"While additional factors other than social connection likely influence the happiness gained from pro-social spending our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings," the researchers concluded.
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