Perhaps there's another reason for post-holiday blues

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

It’s always sad when Christmas is over, but it’s a special downer when you have to go right back to work, as many of us did today.

There may be another reason you’re feeling a little blue this year after the relatives have gone home and the gifts are missing from under the tree.

Perhaps you didn’t give enough of them!

That seems to defy reason, given Americans’ penchant for overdoing things, but two groups of researchers have confirmed something said by the man whose birth we just celebrated: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Ed O’Brien of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Samantha Kassirer of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management led studies that concluded that happiness does not decline, or declines slower the more we continue giving.

In one experiment, university students were given $5 each day for five days and required to spend the money on exactly the same thing each time. They were randomly assigned orders to either spend the money on themselves or on someone else, such as leaving money in a tip jar at the same cafe or online to the same charity every day. Participants then reflected on their spending experience and overall happiness at the end of each day.

All 96 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 five-day period. For those who gave their money to someone else, however, the joy from giving for the fifth time in a row was just as strong as it was in the beginning.

The researchers then conducted a second online experiment, giving 502 participants a chance to play 10 rounds of a word puzzle game. They won a nickel per round, which they then either kept or donated to a charity of their choice.

Once again, participants who gave away their winnings said their happiness declined far more slowly than those who kept their winnings.

The scientists plan to continue their research, looking at other factors — what if larger amounts of money were involved? What if we give to friends instead of strangers?

It will be interesting to see the results, but we predict results will be the same — whether it’s mere money being given away or our precious time here on earth.

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