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Everyone wants to know the secret to happiness.
Turns out, money can buy happiness, as long as you don’t spend it on yourself, according to a series of studies led by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton.
To study how what we buy affects us, Norton gave envelopes of money to a group of volunteers. Half were instructed to spend the money on themselves; the other half on someone else.
“People who spent money on other people got happier. People who spent money on themselves, nothing happened,” Norton said in his 2012 TEDx Talk, “How To Buy Happiness.”
Another finding? The amount of money spent and the type of purchase didn’t matter—people who gave $5 or $20 got the same “happiness” boost. One woman bought a stuffed animal for her niece; another a cup of coffee for a friend.
“You don’t have to do amazing things with your money to make yourself happy. You can do small, trivial things, and you’ll still get these benefits,” Norton said.
Norton has now studied the effects of charitable giving on happiness in 136 countries around the world. His earlier findings held true.
“People who give money to charity are happier people than people who don’t give money to charity,” he said.
What about charitable giving in the workplace? Norton looked there next. He instructed one team of people to spend a bonus on themselves; a second team was told to spend it on their teammates.
“Teams that are pro-social sell more stuff than teams that only got money for themselves,” Norton found.
The findings aren’t surprising to Ingrid Embree, the senior director of strategic partnerships at GlobalGiving, the oldest and largest crowdfunding community for nonprofits, donors and companies. (Full disclosure: I work there, too.)
Embree helps companies like Gap Inc., Google and Hilton meet their corporate social responsibility goals. A growing number of companies, she said, are turning to charitable giving in the workplace to increase employee happiness. She said many of the companies she works with buy charity gift cards for employees to acknowledge important anniversaries and milestones.
“The impact on employee morale is really quite incredible,” Embree said.
Interestingly, teams with women at the helm tend to be more generous, according to a 2011 study. Harvard researchers found that companies with women executive leaders and gender-inclusive leadership teams contributed, on average, more charitable funds than companies without women leaders.
This article originally published on https://www.forbes.com/sites/marlenahartz/2017/08/02/1-thing-you-can-do-to-boost-your-happiness/#6c1fc8d17e4d
By Marlena Hartz