Friday, 23 December 2011

The gift of giving

For some, Christmas is not about religion, but more about the presents they receive. It's true, Christmas is a time of giving and even the Christian story mentioned the three wise men presenting gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But should it be more about the ‘the art of giving’ rather than giving in the material sense of the word?

A study conducted by Carter & Gilovich (2010) found that purchases made with the intention of acquiring a life experience rather than material goods made people happier. This might be because experiences improve with time, take on new meanings and live longer in our minds. Experiences can also resist unfavourable comparisons and can be mentally revisited unlike material posessions.

Giving in other ways also has its benefits. When we talk about social support and how it is good for our health we assume the benefits come from receiving support from others. However, scientists, using sophisticated brain imaging techniques at the UCLA, have found we gain benefits from providing support to others. In fact, participants showed increased neural activity in reward-related regions of the brain when providing support which may have stress reducing effects for the support-giver as well.

So, when you’re getting stressed from all that last minute Christmas shopping, remember that giving, in any form, is a gift - giving time and effort to your loved ones to create lasting memories may actually be more appreciated than the latest must-have gadget.

Seasons Greetings from all here at First Psychology and best wishes for the New Year!

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