Labor Day weekend had just passed and hurricane Hermine was soaking holiday visitors on the Outer Banks and up the East Coast. But, since we in the Midwest were enjoying beautiful weather, my husband and I decided to make the most of it by doing a few miles on our bikes at a forested local municipal park.
The park was busy. Families had reserved the many shelters for reunions and while food was being unloaded from cars and SUVs, fierce games were being organized. Biking along, we’d hear shrieks and laughter floating through the air to be replaced by the hum of cicadas until we’d wheel past another group raucously celebrating the holiday together.
Some waved, and yelled “Are you hungry?” My husband, Jim, would call back “Always!” as we cycled on. They were invariably smiling, as generous people usually are. Why is that?
In our book, World Changing Generosity, we sited an interesting study by Jordan Grafman, PhD, director of Brain injury Research at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He found that giving literally lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain that are engaged during sexual activity. He also found that giving gave far more pleasure than receiving. Hmmm. How can it be?
The meaning is clear, our brains are designed to reward us for giving. Happiness is a byproduct of generosity. So, the answer to the question posed in the headline of this blog post is “Yes!.”
Generous people ARE happier.
The University of Notre Dame attacked the subject a little differently. After five years of research by Christian Smith, PhD and Hilary Davidson, important lines between generosity and happy, healthy living were clear. They analyzed the findings of interviews with more than 2,000 people and found that generous people reported increased health, happiness, avoidance of depression and a greater purpose in life.
Their findings: When we give to others, our own life is enhanced. So next time a stranger calls to you and says “Are you hungry?” Just look closely, I’ll bet they’re smiling!