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Helping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do it

Research shows that helping others makes us happier. But in her groundbreaking work on generosity and joy, social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn found that there's a catch: it matters how we help. Learn how we can make a greater impact -- and boost our own happiness along the way -- if we make one key shift in how we help others. "Let's stop thinking about giving as just this moral obligation and start thinking of it as a source of pleasure," Dunn says.


Helping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do it
Helping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do it


Helping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do itHelping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do it
Helping others makes us happier -- but it matters how we do it

















Transcipts

"Pretty early on in my career, I published a paper in "Science" with my collaborators, entitled, "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness."" Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., and Norton, M. I. (2008). "Spending money on others promotes happiness". Science

02:42 Note "The data revealed that toddlers were pretty happy when they got this pile of Goldfish for themselves, but they were actually even happier when they got to give some of their Goldfish away." Aknin, L. B., Hamlin, J.K. and Dunn, E. W. (2012). "Giving leads to happiness in young children". PLoS ONE Note: This original study has been conceptually replicated with other samples, including children in a remote village in the South Pacific.

02:58Back Back Note "When we analyze surveys from more than 200,000 adults across the globe, we saw that nearly a third of the world's population reported giving at least some money to charity in the past month." Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., et al. (2013). "Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology For the frequency of giving, see Table S-1 in the online supplement.

03:12 Note "Remarkably, in every major region of the world, people who gave money to charity were happier than those who did not, even after taking into account their own personal financial situation." Please see page 13: Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., et al. (2013). "Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

03:28Back Back Note "It looked like giving to charity made about the same difference for happiness as having twice as much income." This is based on footnote three, of Aknin et al. (2013), which states: "Quantitatively, in order to increase SWB by as much as the predicted effect of prosocial spending, log income would need to increase by the ratio of coefficients, .27/.41 = .66. Therefore, income would need to increase by a factor of exp(.27/.41) = 1.93."

04:06 Note "I was really excited about these ideas, and I wrote about them in the "New York Times."" Dunn, E. W. (2012). "Don’t Indulge. Be Happy." New York Times

05:14Back Back Note "That's when I learned about the Group of Five. The Canadian government allows any five Canadians to privately sponsor a family of refugees." Learn more about the pioneering Canadian refugee resettlement program: "The Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program"

05:44 Note "... we ended up partnering with a community organization and forming a group of 25." We teamed up with the Shaughnessy United Church (SHUC), which is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder. Even though most of our group members were not religious, SHUC welcomed us with open arms and we are very grateful! We also had a huge amount of help navigating this process from the incredible team at MOSAIC, which serves the refugee community in Vancouver.

06:17Back Back Note "When the big day came, we filled their fridge with milk and fresh fruit and headed to the airport to meet our family. It was a little overwhelming for everyone, especially the four-year-old. His mother was reunited with her sister who had come to Canada earlier through the same program." I am grateful to our Syrian family for giving me permission to share photos of their arrival and first year in Canada.

06:43Back Back Note "When you hear that more than 5.6 million refugees have fled Syria, you're faced with this tragedy that the human brain hasn't really evolved to comprehend." "Syria Regional Refugee Response: Total Persons of Concerns". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

07:25 Note "Back in my lab, we'd seen the benefits of giving spike when people felt a real sense of connection with those they were helping and could easily envision the difference they were making in those individuals' lives." For our most recent work on this topic, using pre-registered experiments and openly available data, see: Lok, I. and Dunn, E. W. (2019). "Under what conditions does prosocial spending promote happiness?"

07:38Back Back Note "For example, in one experiment, we gave participants an opportunity to donate a bit of money to either UNICEF or Spread the Net." Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Whillans, A. V., Grant, A. M., and Norton, M. I. (2013). "Making a difference matters: Impact unlocks the emotional benefits of prosocial spending". Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization

09:36Back Back Note "Thanks to one donation, the kids got to go to bike camp, and every day of the week, some member of our group tried to be there to cheer for them." I am grateful to Pedalheads for donating bike camp bursaries and allowing me to share this video.

10:37 Note "So this is the kind of helping that human beings evolved to enjoy, but for 40 years, Canada was the only country in the world that allowed private citizens to sponsor refugees."

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