Generosity and Happiness

by | December 2018


“Time cannot be packaged and ribboned and left under trees for Christmas morning. Time can’t be given. But it can be shared.”

Cecelia Ahern, Irish novelist (born 1981)

Generosity is good for you. Research suggests that being generous is associated with feeling happier, it leads to greater success in group activities, it helps you be less stressed and thus live longer, it helps your marriage, and it promotes mental health.

What is there not to like about all this?

Generosity can also be about letting others’ generosity into our life. Since being generous is so beneficial, then allowing others to help us is also helping them. And as the quote above suggests, generosity in giving of our time and attention to another can be a great gift. As the year draws to a close, who are you going to give some of your time to?



  • In the Ted talk below, the Art of Asking, the musician Amanda Palmer talks of the importance of being courageous enough to ask for help. So, in this first challenge, try turning generosity on its head, and challenge yourself to ask for help when you need it. If you are someone who believes you can do it all yourself, this could be an interesting challenge for you.
  • Research shows time and again that being generous is good for us. Next time you hesitate to give your time or resources to someone, pause, and ask yourself why. And then, perhaps, see where going with the impulse to give leads you…




How to buy Happiness social science researcher, Michael Norton, reports on his research into generosity. His findings are that money can, indeed, buy happiness. But it depends on who you spend it on.

The Art of Asking in this unusual and moving talk, watched over 9.5 million times, musician Amanda Palmer presents on her experience being a street performer, and later a professional musician, relying on the generosity of strangers. She talks of the beauty of an exchange based in a fearlessness of giving and receiving. She ends by saying "when we really see each other, we want to help each other."

How Cognitive Surplus will change the World Clay Shirky, social media theorist, talks about the intersection of technology and generosity. He gives an example, Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing tool originally created to move information out to the world about violence in Kenya. No-one got paid to create it. When we pair our social media technology with generosity of time to create civic value, and then, importantly, celebrate that, we can change the world for the better.


The Science of Generosity at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA, they are collating research and information on the human virtue of generosity.

7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health Generosity feels good, and here’s the science to back up that feeling.

Want to be happy? Stop being so cheap! this is an interview with the authors of a large study on generosity they surveyed over 2,000 individuals over five years. They then wrote a book about it called ‘The paradox of generosity’.

The Man who couldn’t stop givingif you want to learn about research into the neurological and evolutionary origins of generosity, then this is for you.