Giving back: the secret to a happy life

In the 1975 cult classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur and his knights embark on a journey for the Holy Grail. Legend holds that this vessel, discussed throughout Arthurian literature, provides youth and happiness to whomever possesses it.

Throughout history, humans have sought the secret to happiness and fulfillment.

Even the United Nations has designated March 20th as the International Day of Happiness, a day celebrating the importance of happiness in individuals around the globe.

Happiness and Giving Back Good Done Great

Will we find happiness if we find the Holy Grail, or is there another way to secure happiness and fulfillment?

The answer may be simple: give back.

In 2008, Michael Norton, an assistant professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School, conducted a study with Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin of the University of British Columbia. The researchers surveyed 632 Americans and asked how much they earn in a year, how much they spent on bills, expenses, and personal gifts in a month, and how much they spent on gifts for others and charitable donations in a month. Additionally, the researchers asked those surveyed to rate how happy they were.

The research showed that those individuals who spent more on other people were happier. The money they spent on themselves did not impact their level of happiness.

Additional studies indicated the same – individuals that spent their money on other people were happier than those who spent money on themselves.

Norton highlights the importance of corporate social responsibility and employee giving stating that if companies provide their employees with the opportunity to give to their own causes versus providing a blanket donation to a company cause, employees will be happier. This opportunity for employees may entice further charitable giving.

Beyond donating to your favorite charity, volunteering with your favorite charity can also bring you happiness. According to research conducted at the London School of Economics, the more individuals volunteered, they happier they were. In fact, if you spend time helping others, you may feel as if you have more time to yourself.

Researchers from The Wharton School, Yale School of Management, and Harvard Business School conducted a study surrounding time and giving back. According to this study, “giving time makes people feel efficacious – like they can get more done. Therefore, we also included behavioral measures reflective of feeling less time constrained and more capable: committing to future engagements and following through on those time commitments.” By giving away your time to others, you will feel more productive!

If you want to boost your spirits or embark upon a journey to lifelong happiness, the answer is simple, give back. We think this solution is a heck of a lot easier and more fulfilling than enduring a trek with killer rabbits and holy hand grenades.


They say that when you give, the effect upon your brain is similar to eating chocolate. If you love chocolate (and giving), then sign up today for an individual giving account!