For thousands of years, humans have engaged in gift giving around the world. Contrary to popular belief, the act of giving more away was seen as a greater status symbol than the possession of a lot of things. This is because if you had more, you can give more away and still be prosperous. With such a long history, it is no wonder it has been so widely studied by anthropologists, scientists, and psychologists alike.
It turns out, receiving a gift isn’t the only great part about a gift exchange. The gift giver is also mentally healthier than someone who doesn’t give gifts. It seems that this is due to evolution as men gave the gifts and women received them. This strengthened relationships early on and reinforced ideas of generosity.
According to Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer, “giving to others reinforces our feelings for them and makes us feel effective and caring.”
There are also some tentative studies that show gift giving can serve as preventative medicine. A UC Berkeley test found that elderly people who volunteered lived several years longer than those who didn’t.
Giving is also contagious. When the person in front of you at a coffee shop tips, you are more likely to tip as well. In addition, giving releases oxytocin which is a happy hormone that perks us up and makes our mood better.
Altruism, giving with nothing expected in return, is a sign of trust and cooperation in a relationship. This can signal a great relationship, or signal the end of a bad one. If one partner gives a gift unwrapped, this spells bad news because we buy nice things and spend time on wrapping things for people we care about.
Speaking of wrapping things up, this will be the final blog post written by me, Clare. It has been a pleasure to make the internet (hopefully) a little bit healthier. Thanks for reading and supporting, friends!