Christmas is here. Simple acts of generosity and giving – that’s what Christmas means to a lot of us. My curiosity was piqued to find out if generosity actually lead to happiness.

The whole year is spent acquiring possessions – money, power, experience, position etc. And one day of generosity triggers a different sense of happiness. To get a better logical sense of this, I researched on how generosity triggers happiness. Findings by university of Zurich has established a neural link between generosity and happiness. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging – commonly known as fMRI to understand this linkage.

The team was specifically interested in identifying what degree of generosity was necessary to light up someone’s brain inside the fMRI. In the study, 50 participants were promised varied sums of money that they’d receive in the near future. The control group committed to spending the money on themselves, while the other subjects chose to spend it on others.

While the study subjects made their decisions, the team studied activity in three parts of the brain — the ventral striatum (which controls happiness), the temporoparietal junction (which processes generosity), and the orbitofrontal cortex (which regulates the decision-making process).

Very Small Amounts of Generosity Can Give Your Brain a “Warm Glow”

One of the most surprising aspects of this study is that the amount of generosity did not correlate directly with the degree of someone’s happiness or contentment. Very small amounts of generous behaviour could elicit the warm glow of feeling happy. “You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice,” Philippe Tobler said in a statement.

Undoubtedly, most of us know from first-hand experience that doing something kind-hearted or generous for someone else gives you a “warm fuzzy” feeling that the researchers observed using high-tech fMRI brain imaging.

Nevertheless, now we have empirical evidence to prove that even minuscule amounts of day-to-day generosity can trigger neurobiological changes in your brain that are clinically proven to increase happiness and contentment.

This Christmas, let’s remember to make generosity a part of our every-day life and not just a once a year affair. We could all be the God of Small Things – let helping each other be a way of life.

Here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.