Gift-giving goes back a long way – almost to the dawn of humanity. And it is not stopping anytime soon. This seemingly simple gesture carries a lot of meaning. Giving gifts such as care packages for friends helps form bonds and foster relationships, making it a foundation in the fabric of society.
So, why do we give gifts? Find out the psychology behind gift-giving and its benefits for relationships and mental health in this handy guide.
What’s in a Gift?
A gift is defined as something material or immaterial voluntarily given to a person, group of people or entity without any payment in return, to celebrate an occasion or provide support. Why do we give gifts, then, investing time and money into thoughtful presents without expecting anything in return?
Just because no payment is expected, does not mean giving gifts does not come with rewards. Gift-giving as a human behavior actually serves a specific evolutionary purpose: helping people form connections and build communities. This explains how prevalent it is across cultures, getting people closer together and strengthening personal and professional relationships.
Benefits of Gift-Giving
The benefits of gift-giving are various – and they’re as good for the giver as they are for the receiver, if not even better. And it’s all down to gifting psychology.
It’s Nice to be Nice
Kindness is (and always will be) “in”. The psychology behind gift-giving lies on a foundation of kindness and caring. The act of showing kindness, for example by giving someone a surprise box gift, actually has an incredible effect on your physical and mental health. All the more reasons to be nice!
According to data gathered by research, expressing kindness to others – for example through gift-giving – can lead to an increase in energy, lifespan, feelings of love and happiness, and can even help relieve pain and lower blood pressure. It also highlights research that suggests good deeds lead to increased activity in the brain’s pleasure and reward center – just as much as if you were the recipient of said gesture. They call it the “helper’s high” and it would be a shame not to try.
The act of gift giving sparks a connection between you and the recipient. Lover, sibling, friend, customer, or client – no matter who receives the gift, your gesture shows you recognize and value them as a part of your world. By enhancing this sense of connection, gift-giving helps form strong bonds and build lasting relationships.
This principle of gift-giving psychology has been essential to humans as a society, to support each other and grow together. A group of researchers studying the effects of charitable donations found that giving activates a region of the brain associated with social bonding.
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