Get happy: A good reason to give away your money and time | Women's Agenda

Get happy: A good reason to give away your money and time

If you were given a $100 note and told to spend it in the way that would make you feel the happiest, what would you do with it? Shop? Take a chance on the lotto?

If you’re like 50% of Australians, according to a recent study, you’ll have opted to save it. For a career-savvy woman, this seems like a sensible option, right? But then again, spending it on something nice doesn’t sound too bad either.

What may surprise you, however, is that research suggests that provided your basic needs are being met, giving your money away will make you feel the happiest – even though most of us wouldn’t immediately elect to do so.

The study of 1200 Australians, undertaken by Di Marzio Research and commissioned by consulting group Cavill + Co, found that when given a choice of seven ways to use a ‘free $100’, donating it to charity or giving it to someone less fortunate came in as a measly second last preference for survey participants, just ahead of gambling it. Yet brain chemistry suggests we’ve got our ideas about happiness all wrong.

Hailey Cavill, a social entrepreneur and Director of Cavill + Co, says neuro-imaging techniques identifying brain region activation when performing different acts show that philanthropy generates more happiness than money. And it’s a hormone-induced high that gives us a spring in our step. “Performing an altruistic act releases dopamine, often called the ‘pleasure neuro-transmitter’, as well as oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’,” explains Cavill in statement with the research.

These new findings support research published in the journal Science, which found that personal spending was not related to happiness, yet pro-social spending – such as donating to charity or purchasing things for others – was significantly associated with greater feelings of happiness.

So if you’re after a happiness boost (and aren’t we all), parting with your money might be the secret.

These findings are important for leaders in business too, as employee happiness can be increased through altruism.

“Company culture begins at the top, so bosses should reveal the charities they help, the people they mentor and the volunteering they do, and encourage others to join in,” says Cavill. Not only will those on the receiving end of your generosity benefit, but no doubt your company’s level of success will too.

The benefits of giving aren’t limited to money either. A study published in Psychological Science found that if you feel like there aren’t enough hours in your day, the best way to increase your perception of time is to give some of it away. This is because giving your time to others increases feelings of self efficacy, or your belief in your ability to reach goals, so you get on a high that motivates you to achieve more. If this is true, then surely we want to get on board as feeling rushed for time is just another happiness killer.

It’s all about the giving. And hopefully it’ll have you smiling.

How do you choose to spend your time and money? Does it make you happy?

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