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Surprising Ways Holiday Giving is Good for You

Surprising Ways Holiday Giving is Good for You

Ever wonder why people keep giving to charity, especially when times are tough and you'd think everyone's just hardwired to survive? (Americans donate about $300 billion a year.) No, it's not the tax break, according to a study. In fact, most givers don't itemize and don't get a tax benefit at all. Here's what might be fueling such generosity:

  • Your brain chemistry holds the key. When you feel especially good -- say, after making love or eating a great meal -- the pleasure center of your brain lights up like holiday lights in December. Ditto if you win at a casino. If you then give your winnings to a charity, that same pleasure center will light up even more than if you keep the cash. Think Times Square on New Year's Eve compared with sparklers on the Fourth of July.
  • Giving not only makes you feel good, it also makes you stronger. For example, if you squeezed a rubber ball (or shook the hand of an unsuspecting new acquaintance) right after doing something nice for someone, chances are you'd squeeze it 20% longer than on a usual day. (Find out other ways to improve your mood.)
  • When it comes to love, it's also better to give than to receive. If you're married and you and your spouse go the extra mile for each other, you're likely to live longer than couples who don't take the extra steps, and longer than a spouse who is mostly on the receiving end. (Find out how to spice up your love life with an attitude of gratitude.)

What are you waiting for? Offer your lover a back rub. Volunteer at a school. Send an extra check to a favorite cause. And let the feel-good lightshow begin!

Test your happiness know-how and use it to make others happy.

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