Better to give than to receive

It is much better to give than to receive. We’ve heard this saying hundreds of times — especially around Christmas time in our younger years.
Mar 4, 2014

We often thought it was just a ploy our parents used to keep us from becoming too greedy.

We have also been told money can't buy us happiness.

But now, scientists beg to differ. They say money can make us happy — as long as we spend it on someone else.

And being happy, experts agree, can make us healthier.

Harvard professor Michael Norton, the author of “Happy Money, the Science of Smarter Spending,” has the data to back up these claims. The professor, who recently spoke in Grand Rapids, walked his audiences through several experiments in which Canadian college students, poor Ugandans and Belgian pharmaceutical salesmen were given money to spend on themselves or others.

In every case, those who were told to give the money away were happier than those who were told to keep the money for themselves, Norton said.

“Basically, everywhere in the world, giving is associated with being a happier person,” he said.

The most generous givers tend to be at both ends of the wealth spectrum. Poor people tend to be more generous than the middle class.

“There’s something about being very poor that triggers giving,” Norton said.

Giving to religious groups, even when compulsory, tends to make people happier, scientists say. However, giving to a person you know makes you happier than giving anonymously.

Why does this happen? Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, has a theory.

"We are constantly told that people who give money away are good,” he said. “So, when you see yourself giving away money, you think you must be a kind and generous person, and so you feel happier.”

The Tri-Cities area has a reputation of getting behind local causes.

If you contribute, keep it up. If you haven’t, you should try it — it could very well put a smile on your face.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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