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The Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” starts out…

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la la la la!
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la!”

‘Tis also the season of giving. Giving makes you jolly… Or happy and there is science to support that fact.

A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier).1 Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.2

These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.3 Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

All great stuff, scientifically, but is it true in practical, everyday life? Test it for yourself. During the holidays, when you give a present to someone, pay attention to your reaction as they open it… You are excited with anticipation, almost giddy with joy.

To feel that way all year around, apply this philosophy in almost everything you do. In any relationship, give before taking. When networking, give before asking.

Remember that giving is better than receiving and giving will make you jolly.

A Holly Jolly Christmas

“Have a holly, jolly Christmas; It’s the best time of the year
I don’t know if there’ll be snow but have a cup of cheer
Have a holly, jolly Christmas; And when you walk down the street
Say Hello to friends you know and everyone you meet

Oh ho the mistletoe
hung where you can see; Somebody waits for you; Kiss her once for me
Have a holly jolly Christmas and in case you didn’t hear Oh by golly
have a holly jolly Christmas this year”

Have a great holiday.



1Anik, Lalin; Aknin, Lara B., Norton, Michael I., and Dunn, Elizabeth W. Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. (2009). 
2Lyubomirsky, Sonja. (2008). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Books.
3Moll, Jorge, Krueger, Frank, Zahn, Roland, Pardini, Matteo, de Oliviera-Souza, Ricardo, and Grafman, Jordan. Human Fronto-Mesolimbic Networks Guide Decisions About Charitable Donation. (May 31, 2006). Retrieved from