Giving: A Way To Treat Your Anxiety

When we give to others, more so than receive, we are happier and more fulfilled, which can help treat anxiety and depression. A recent study, using toddlers as subjects, indicates that even very young people feel happier when giving to others than when receiving something for themselves. Plus, the toddlers seemed very happy when they sacrificed their own resources to give.

The study results support the idea that human beings are hard-wired for pro-social and sharing behaviors. It’s comforting to know that despite everything we see on a newscast we have evolved (or have been created) to be generous with one another. Furthermore, it seems our wiring may give us the warmest and fuzziest glow when our giving costs us something.

These good, “pro-social” feelings do more than reinforce our acts of kindness. Sharing is linked to constructive thinking, success, and long life as well.

Steps In the Study

  • A warm-up exercise was done with the children showing that the puppets involved liked getting treats.
  • Children were introduced to a monkey puppet, encouraged to touch it, and told the monkey liked treats.
  • The experimenter said, “Both you and Monkey have no treats right now,” drawing attention to the lack of treats.
  • The experimenter then discovered eight treats, said they were for the child, and put all of them in the toddler’s bowl.
  • The experimenter discovered another treat and gave it to the puppet.
  • The experimenter finds another treat and asks the child to give it to the puppet.
  • The experimenter asks the child to give the puppet a treat from the child’s bowl of treats.
  • The study found that the toddlers did not have an aversion to sharing treats out of their own stash. The toddler’s happy reaction was also unrelated to the different levels of treat-enthusiasm expressed by the puppet.

So, now there is one more notch in the research belt indicating humans are wired to share and cooperate; something many of us intuits to be true without research results.


“While other studies have suggested adults are happier giving to others than to themselves and that kids are motivated to help others spontaneously,” Delia Fuhrmann, a Greater Good research assistant, wrote, “this is the first study to suggest that altruism is intrinsically rewarding even to very young kids and that it makes them happier to give than to receive.”

Although we are all wired a bit differently at birth and grow up in families with a variety of values and quality of role models, it makes sense that we take heart over being naturally rewarded to share and live accordingly. Even if we feel anxious or depressed, our body responds positively to small acts of cooperation and generosity.

Source: Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children and Hard Wired to Be Kind
Photo: Pexels

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