Those who are concerned about the well-being of their fellow humans are happier compared to those who focus only on their own needs. Performing a good deed for someone else gives most of us a pleasant feeling that’s known as a warm glow. Researchers looked at how areas of the brain communicate to produce this feeling, and the results gave insight into the happiness and altruism interaction.
It was discovered that individuals who acted generously were happier after the study compared to individuals who acted selfishly. And the increase in happiness is not influenced by how generous you are; just a little more generosity can be a source of happiness.
For the study, a number of the participants had committed to being generous towards others. The other participants consisted of a control group who had committed to being generous toward themselves. The experimental group were prepared to accept a higher cost for being generous to someone else.
An amount of money to spend was promised to the fifty participants to be received in a week or two. The participants were divided into two groups, the experimental group who had promised to be generous and spend the money on someone they knew, and the control group committed to spend the money selfishly.
They then made a series of decisions with regards to generous behavior, such as whether to give a gift of money to somebody who’s close to them . While these decisions were being made, activity in 3 brain areas was measured: the area where the pros and cons are weighed in decision-making processes called the orbitofrontal cortex; the area where generosity and prosocial behavior are processed called the temporoparietal junction; and the happiness associated area called the ventral striatum. Different interactions were seen in these 3 brain areas, according to whether the individuals had committed to being generous or selfish.
Their happiness was recorded before and after the study. A remarkable discovery was that the intent alone generated a neural change before the action was actually implemented. Just the intent of generosity was enough to bring about a change in the area of brain which makes us happier. It triggered the altruistic brain area and increased the interaction with the area related to happiness.