The Joy of Giving Lasts Longer Than the Joy of Getting

The happiness we feel after a particular event or activity diminishes each time we experience that event, a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. But giving to others may be the exception to this rule, according to new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

In the paper, “People Are Slow to Adapt to the Warm Glow of Giving,” forthcoming in Psychological Science, Chicago Booth Associate Professor Ed O’Brien and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s PhD candidate Samantha Kassirer found that participants’ happiness did not decline, or declined much slower, if they repeatedly bestowed gifts on others versus repeatedly receiving those same gifts themselves.

“If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we’re currently consuming and experience something new. Our research reveals that the kind of thing may matter more than assumed: Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more that we do it,” O’Brien explains.

The researchers conducted two studies. In one experiment, university student participants received $5 every day for 5 days; they were required to spend the money on the exact same thing each time. The researchers randomly assigned participants to spend the money either on themselves or on someone else, such as by leaving money in a tip jar at the same café or making an online donation to the same charity every day. The participants reflected on their spending experience and overall happiness at the end of each day.

The data, from a total of 96 participants, showed a clear pattern: Participants started off with similar levels of self-reported happiness and those who spent money on themselves reported a steady decline in happiness over the 5-day period. But happiness did not seem to fade for those who gave their money to someone else. The joy from giving for the fifth time in a row was just as strong as it was at the start.

O’Brien and Kassirer then conducted a second experiment online, which allowed them to keep the tasks consistent across participants. In this experiment, 502 participants played 10 rounds of a word puzzle game. They won five cents per round, which they either kept or donated to a charity of their choice. After each round, participants disclosed the degree to which winning made them feel happy, elated, and joyful.

Again, the self-reported happiness of those who gave their winnings away declined far more slowly than did the happiness reported by those who kept their winnings.

Further analyses ruled out some potential alternative explanations, such as the possibility that participants who gave to others had to think longer and harder about what to give, which could promote higher happiness.

“We considered many such possibilities, and measured over a dozen of them,” says O’Brien. “None of them could explain our results; there were very few incidental differences between ‘get’ and ‘give’ conditions, and the key difference in happiness remained unchanged when controlling for these other variables in the analyses.”

Adaptation to happiness-inducing experiences can be functional to the extent that it motivates us to pursue and acquire new resources. Why doesn’t this also happen with the happiness we feel when we give?

The researchers note that when people focus on an outcome, such as getting paid, they can easily compare outcomes, which diminishes their sensitivity to each experience. When people focus on an action, such as donating to a charity, they may focus less on comparison and instead experience each act of giving as a unique happiness-inducing event.

We may also be slower to adapt to happiness generated by giving because giving to others helps us maintain our prosocial reputation, reinforcing our sense of social connection and belonging.

These findings raise some interesting questions for future research – for example, would these findings hold if people were giving or receiving larger amounts of money? Or to giving to friends versus strangers?

The researchers have also considered looking beyond giving or receiving monetary rewards, since prosocial behavior includes a wide range of experiences.

“Right now we’re testing repeated conversation and social experiences, which also may get better rather than worse over time,” O’Brien explains.

Random Acts of Kindness: Lessons for Your Whole Family

Random Acts of Kindness Week
Random Acts of Kindness

Though it may seem that nearly everything gets its own awareness day or week these days, some are more worthy than others. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), Random Acts have some ideas on how the entire family can get involved in performing random acts of kindness. Not only can participating in these kinds of activities build character in your children, they can also teach them the concept of civic responsibility and build a strong sense of caring for other people. Additionally, it’s a great way for your family to spend quality time together.

Change Your World

To many, the world’s problems can often feel so big and overwhelming that you’re not sure how to go about making any kind of positive change. However, by starting at the community level, or even just taking a little time out of your busy schedule to show someone in need some much-needed kindness, small changes can grow into big ones. Becoming a RAKtavist doesn’t even need to take much time. Something as simple as sending a letter to someone who inspired you or your kids making a nice drawing for the elderly lady next door can lead to a warm heart.

1) Volunteer.

There are likely many different issues that you or your family members feel passionate about and by volunteering you can help make a difference. Hold a toy drive for women’s shelters, focusing on both baby toys and useful learning toys for older children. Some inexpensive and durable toys can be found at stores such as Target which as an added bonus also makes generous donations to public education. There are also organizations that help disadvantaged people get back to work such as Dress for Success which is always looking for gently used business clothing and tutors to help with resumes and job training. The whole family can volunteer at a pet adoption center, raising funds and gathering donations for their furry friends.

2) Surprise a neighbor.

Many of us don’t take the time to get to know our neighbors, but fostering a relationship with them can improve your community’s sense of togetherness and security. Take the family over to introduce yourselves, perhaps bringing some baked goods that you all made together. Your kids can pitch in with the decoration of both the cakes and the basket. Offer to help out an elderly or shut-in neighbor with grocery shopping or even some yard work.

3) Adopt another family in need.

Helping another family in your community can show your kids that lending a hand can have a direct impact on someone else’s life. Encourage your children to find toys they no longer play with to share with the other family.  You can take casseroles, or even provide the family with a grocery card so they can do their own shopping. You can find out more about adopting a family by visiting your local Salvation Army, or your church may also have families they sponsor.

4) Help decorate your local senior center.

Your whole family can bring a smile to an elderly face by bringing homemade decorations or floral arrangements to your local senior center. Have your kids create paper decorations for holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Halloween that can be hung up in the center for all to see. Flowers are especially appreciated, and bringing an arrangement from your own garden will cheer anyone up.

5) Make a care package.

Think about the people in your lives that could use a little “happy” or a helping hand. What kind of things could they really use? Students struggling with bills might enjoy some home baked cookies and a grocery card to help them through the tough times. Those who are homeless are especially in need of blankets, a phone card, and non-perishable snacks. Discuss it with your family to come up with ideas for care packages.

Helping others can evoke a warm feeling inside you, and passing that gift on to your children can elicit a lifetime of giving back to the community. Think of creative ways you can  help those in need, or things you can do to bring a smile to someone’s face. Sometimes even the most simple of gestures can go a long way. 

Photo Credit: Flickr

What To Do With Those Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Whether it’s a book that you are never going to read or a jumper that just isn’t suited to your style, the chances are that many of us will have received unwanted Christmas gifts that we have no use for. This isn’t to say that these gifts were not appreciated, but they didn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the type of gift you were hoping for.

However, there may be other reasons why a gift may be unwanted, though such as being damaged or it could even be a duplicate present. Whatever the reason, here are a few options that you can choose from to help you figure out what to do with them.

Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts
Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Talk To The Giver 

There is a need to tread carefully here. Whatever the gift was, it was given with love. The person giving it is likely to have been pleased with their purchase, so you need to consider their feelings. If you don’t know them too well, maybe they’re a work colleague or the spouse of a distant family member, you may want to avoid telling them.

For closer family members and friends, a bit of honesty can go a long way. Not only will this mean they know your preference for next time, you also have a chance to see if they have the receipt or ask where they got it from.

Refunds And Credit 

If you can get hold of the receipt or you know that the shop the gift was bought from has a more relaxed returns policy, then the best thing to do is attempt to take it back. If the issue is just with the size, then you can always exchange it for one that fits better.

Sadly, not all companies will be open to offering refunds. It is your right to a refund if the product is faulty. If you are returning an item for no other reason apart from the fact that you don’t like it, the shop may have no obligation to accept your return.

However, most places will have a goodwill policy in the period after Christmas and those that don’t offer money back should give store credit, which is still better than something you are never going to use.


Re-gifting may be frowned upon by some people, but it’s much better that someone gets to enjoy the gift than it sitting in a drawer for the foreseeable future. If you know someone who would love that jumper you didn’t really want or you know someone with a child that would love the unwanted toy your child was bought, then there is no harm in passing the parcel. Again, it is a good idea to be honest with whoever gave you the gift in case they also know the person you are re-gifting it to.

Selling Online 

Ebay has been a massive success since it was founded in 1995 and this site acts as a great platform for you to sell your unwanted presents. The fees for selling are scaled according to how much the gift costs, and it offers you the chance to give your gift to people who are actively searching it out.

Ebay is not the only site that’s available though. There are specialist websites all over the internet for various types of gifts. Got a new mobile that you don’t need or want or you want to get rid of your old one, try Got some clothes that don’t fit or aren’t in your style, try For everything else, there’s always Gumtree.


All this talk of unwanted gifts can make some of us feel a little spoilt and so if you really want your redundant gifts to make a difference, you could always drop them off at your local charity shop. Alternatively, you could give any unwanted toys to a children’s hospital or day care centre in your area.

If you want to avoid the embarrassment of giving an unwanted gift, then why not consider gift baskets for the next big occasion in your family. Gift hampers always go down well and can be filled with plenty of goodies, so the recipient is at least likely to enjoy one of them.

photo credit: MRHSfan

How To Choose A Tablet For The Classroom


They say that Christmas 2013 is the Christmas of the tablet. The increasingly low cost of the devices, as well as the bang for buck they offer means that more and more students are asking for one of these slates for Christmas.

After all, they’re a lot cheaper than many alternatives, look great, can be used for both work and play and truly are fantastic devices. However, before you choose one, we’ve a list of different things you should consider.

  • Interface – Look for the right operating system for your work. A lot of students tend to require flash programs for educational content and so an Android system is a far better option here.
  • Hardware – this is something that’s often overlooked but very important. Choosing the correct hardware for your device allows you to add expandable memory and increases the lifespan of the device. In addition, Bluetooth connectivity allows you to add things like keyboards and other great options to your tablet and so make more of it, meaning it’s a better investment.
  • Out of the Box – Purchasing a tablet that needs a lot of configuration and a lot of entering of data when you take it out of the box for the first time is a pain. Choosing a tablet with an up to date operating systems and one that updates itself means you save on a lot of trouble and hassle. Most update automatically meaning you save on trouble. This means you can use it with your teacher, your A-Level or GCSE tutors or whoever else you need to work in conjunction with.
  • Local – Choose a tablet that works with your local software and learning standards – this also saves on a lot of trouble.
  • Affordable – There can be quite a disparity in the cost of tablets and some such as Apple’s iPad cost a lot more than some quite decent alternatives. There are a number of great quality Android tablets out there that can compete and are excellent in quality and also in price. You want to balance this out and should ensure your tablet meets not just your needs but also your costs. After all, student loans don’t tend to go that far.
  • Educational – there are a number of educational tablets out there at the moment. These tend to run on the Android system and have a number of pre-set apps and other extras that are orientated towards education.
  • If choosing an educational based tablet check firstly to see that it may have control settings on the features that can be used. Many of these devices have lock down features and so don’t allow students to look at specific subjects or download certain apps.
  • Screen – if you’re doing a lot of reading on your tablet then you will require a high quality screen. There can be quite a disparity between the quality of the screens on tablets and if you intend on reading a lot then a retina screen is a must.
  • Weight – a lighter tablet is easier to hold and so you should choose one that’s a good size and also fits well in the hand for long periods of time

If you follow these tips you should be able to ensure that you get the best possible tablet for your educational needs.

Sadness and Dread Around the Holidays

Depression during the Holidays
Depression during the Holidays

There can be joy around the holidays for many, but as Christmas week gets closer some fears can grow about whether that time of the year will stimulate feelings of deeper loneliness and inner difficulties. A number of clients came in a few days before Thanksgiving with the dread of getting through the holidays. This also occurs right before Christmas.

For some people, there may be an apprehension about seeing certain family members. There can also be the fear of having nothing to do at all. Feelings of isolation can be accentuated during this time of year because it looks like everyone else is connecting and receiving care. Someone can also be physically surrounded by others but feel very alone and emotionally disconnected.

First of all, if you are supposed to see family members that you have a difficult history with, try to visualize the situation ahead of time. If you anticipate a lot of drama and negative interactions, evaluate whether the gathering makes sense. Can it possibly be an opportunity to have some private meaningful conversations that will help resolve issues from the past? Will there be any supportive people at the gathering or will you feel alone? Each family situation is different and depending on the ability for people to communicate and be honest, certain family dynamics may be too difficult to handle. Think about whether you can attend for a few hours and make the situation in YOUR control, rather than feel passive there. Remember, this can be a way to also turn around the negative history and get a new start.

Sit and visualize the people in your family with whom you have difficulties. Is it possible to see why they may behave the way they do and if there is a way you have contributed to the situation? Of course, certain situations that involved abuse or neglect may be ones where you were a victim and these are often very difficult to see with a new perspective. Some people are able to forgive through compassion and others find it more healthy to cut off contact and not be pulled back into unhealthy dramas. It really depends on the circumstances as well as the personalities involved. For someone with an inpatient psychiatric history, this time of year can be one to carefully watch. Many people are hospitalized around holiday time for mood issues and there can be lots of triggers and associations from the past.

If you are someone suffering from holiday depression due to having no family or loved one to spend time with, preparing ahead for Christmas is important. Do you have a friend in a similar situation? Would you feel better volunteering at a shelter or church function where you can help with meal preparation? This is a way you can feel good about helping others and be around others who volunteer.

Another way to get through the holidays is to remember that you aren’t at work or school for a few days. Are you near a nature center or area that you love? If you are in a warm climate, grabbing a book and a music player can be a way to have a day that is free of stress. You can also stay home and use the day for some meditation, a time of writing and a way to write out your visualizations for next year.

A home study course with yoga and meditation for depression can be studied and practiced during the Christmas week and open new doors. It can be very peaceful to be away from things and just turn inside. Speaking to a counselor a few times in December can be helpful in dealing with this time of year. Remember also that it’s easy to project on others that they are having a perfect time in their lives and to forget that there are tensions and strains in each person’s life which are tough challenges.

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