Do you find that searching for the ideal gift often compounds your stress this time of year? If so, you might breathe a bit easier knowing that gift giving brings benefits to you as well as your recipients.

In their book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton described a study in which researchers gave a group of people a sum of money, either $5 or $20. Half the people were told to spend the money on themselves, the other half was instructed to spend it on someone else or donate it to charity.

The study revealed that those who either spent the money on someone else or gave it to charity were “measurably happier” than those who purchased something for themselves. And the amount didn’t matter – those who spent $5 on someone else were just as happy as those who spent the larger amount. “This experiment suggests that spending as little as $5 on someone else can increase your own happiness,” the authors concluded.

Perhaps even more striking, in his book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stony Brook University Professor Stephen Post found that the act of giving brought increased health benefits to those with chronic conditions, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. Moreover, two separate studies of elderly folks who volunteered or helped others in some practical way discovered that the helpers had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than individuals who did not give of themselves.

As you hunt for your gifts over the next couple of weeks, remember that you’re benefiting yourself as well as your recipients. And if you’re looking for a special gift for someone, why not consider a massage, meditation or yoga class, chiropractic or acupuncture treatment, or a session with a wellness coach? Such gifts offer benefits that could last a lifetime.

*Source: “5 Ways Giving Is Good for You,” Greater Good Magazine, December 13, 2010

By: Carol Swanson

Carol is a health & wellness writer

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