Happiness Comes from Giving

Americans have been told for years that they can’t buy happiness. Many seem not to believe this maxim, while others have found out the hard way that it’s all-too-true. Now there is some objective new research that points the way to true happiness.

Long story short: happiness is derived from giving, not receiving – and certainly not from acquiring things.

The study – by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time – found that people who volunteer are happier with their lives, are more optimistic than the average American and actually expect to live longer-than-average lives.

According to the study authors:

  • 49% of volunteers are very happy with their lives, compared with 31% of non-volunteers.
  • 58% of volunteers definitely want to live to 100, and, when they consider their family’s health history, some 44% believe this will happen for them.
  • By a 13-point margin, volunteers are more likely to say this is one of the best times or at least a good time in their lives.

Those who volunteer are also more likely to express satisfaction with their finances and health.

Now, some of these findings are less than a slam-dunk in terms of cause-and-effect. For instance, those who are well-off financially are probably more likely to have the time be volunteers, since they don’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet.

In other words, doing volunteer work doesn’t necessarily make you more productive or successful.

But there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that being a volunteer does help you to feel better about life – and feeling better about life is a key ingredient to success in a range of areas.

Being a volunteer connects you to others in a positive way, and makes you feel useful. You gain a sense of well-being by contributing to the well-being of others.

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