Most of us love to see someone’s face light up when receiving a gift. But the gesture you’re making for someone else is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Learn about how giving gifts has benefits for you—just don’t get carried away with your credit card.
It Makes You Happy
The benefits start with biology. Scientists have linked altruistic behavior to endorphins—those hormones that give you a feeling of euphoria. When your body releases endorphins during exercise, you can get a runner’s high. When you give a gift, you get a helper’s high. Researchers also say that giving can stimulate the release of another hormone: oxytocin. That’s why you might feel a kind of warm glow when you watch someone opening your present. It can induce feelings of empathy, generosity, and trust.
It Improves the Relationship
Even when we spend time with someone we care about, we don’t always reflect on what it is that we value. But when you give them a present, it crystallizes your feelings into a symbolic object. It puts you in the other person’s shoes. What are they interested in? What do they need? What do you want to share with them? We feel closer to the person as we choose a gift for them. And when they open the gift, they feel closer to us. So, it’s true: it’s the thought that counts.
It’s a Rewarding Ritual
The ceremonial aspect of giving gifts goes back centuries: exchanging presents on certain days, preparing a gift in a special container, wrapping it, and writing a sentiment on a card. Rituals are meaningful in every culture. They help us connect to others and understand ourselves more deeply.
In the movie “Pay It Forward,” the characters performed random acts of kindness and told the recipients to do the same for others. But that can happen without explicit instruction, too. If you give to someone, they may feel inspired to give to someone else. This chain can continue throughout a community and come back to you. Of course, you can define “giving” as spending time volunteering or donating to charity, too.
What will you give? A lot goes into the decision. You might start by deciding how much you can spend, or think about making something yourself. You might want to surprise the person completely or give them exactly what they want. When you give a gift, you’re in control. You’re expressing yourself creatively in the choice and the wrapping. Giving gifts has benefits for you that result in higher self-esteem, feelings of gratitude, a sense of accomplishment, and more. And guess what? The recipient likes it, too.