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Gratitude & Giving

Even though we tend to talk them up the most toward the end of the year, there are all kinds of reasons we really should incorporate them into our lives year-round, in every season. For example, there’s good evidence coming out of the University of California, Berkeley, that practicing gratitude as a way of life instead of just as a fleeting emotion may contribute to enhanced physical and emotional well-being. Regular gratitude and giving aren’t just for West Coast academics either. In his wonderful TED talk, “How to buy happiness,” Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton suggests that money can, after all, buy you happiness – by spending it on others.

Dr. Norton’s studies looked at giving around the world, from Canadian college students to Belgium business professionals to Ugandan villagers. Among his conclusions: Different cultures and communities may spend on one another in different ways, but “[t]he specific way that you spend on other people isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people in order to make yourself happy.” He also emphasizes: “[Y]ou don’t have to do amazing things with your money to make yourself happy. You can do small, trivial things and yet still get these benefits.”

Academics also have helped us understand how to make the most of our gratitude and giving. As with investing, the academic evidence reveals that some strategies have clearly been more effective than others … often in unexpected ways. Wharton Professor Adam Grant is an academic focusing on the themes of giving and gratitude. In this fascinating post from Thanksgiving 2015, Dr. Grant shares some surprising relationships between the two. If you went by gut feel alone, you might assume that gratitude inspires giving. And, to a degree, that seems true. But is it the most direct path to charitable intent? Dr. Grant suggests that there is another connection that may be even stronger: The more you give … the more you want to give even more. “[Those] who reflected on giving increased their total effort by 25% – and put in 13% more hourly effort than their colleagues who wrote about receiving,” says Professor Grant. “Having reminded themselves that they were the kinds of people who cared about others, they became invested in giving more.”

So go ahead, give a little or give a lot. Be thankful for what you’ve got. … Do it all over again. Oh, and give me a call if I can help with the related financial planning,

Jeff Griswold