Ein Psychologe erklärt: Weshalb macht Schenken glücklich?

The main points in a nutshell

  • Gift giving reminds us of our relationship with our parents and usually has positive associations
  • Gifts usually mean expensive, material things
  • However, small gestures such as a home-made loaf or a postcard will be remembered for longer

Sometimes it is more fun making someone else happy with a present than receiving one ourselves. Gifts on birthdays, at Christmas, on Valentine’s Day or even in between times have one thing in common – they create an emotional connection. But why is this the case?

Zurich-based psychologist Andreas Sidler believes that our relationship with our parents plays a key role here: “Our parents gave us the gift of their love and attention as well as protection and security. For that reason, giving presents is always associated with emotions, generally positive ones.”

It doesn’t have to be expensive

The perfect present does not always have to cost a lot. After all, if we are giving a gift out of a genuine sense of affection, we will not be interested in impressing anyone. Small, unexpected presents are often the nicest gifts of all. Why not simply write a sweet message on a note or put a blueberry muffin on your colleague’s desk on a Monday morning? Somehow, the idea that good presents have to be expensive has become firmly established in our society. But why?

Andreas Sidler explains: “We are probably so dominated by the materialistic world we live in that we do not sufficiently appreciate gifts that cost little in material terms but are of much greater value in other ways. By that, I mean the love, understanding, affection, appreciation, recognition, attention, commitment, time, respect and so on that we give to others.”

A small gesture is enough

Sometimes, the little things or the shared experiences are simply much more valuable. So next time you want to give somebody a gift but don’t have much money in your account, think about how you can make them happy without spending a lot. “For cultural reasons, we often view presents as something material, even though we long far more for immaterial gifts such as love and understanding,” Sidler adds.

If you like baking, for example, you could give someone a fresh loaf of bread. Or you could spread cheer from your vacation – almost everybody would be delighted to receive an old-fashioned postcard. Books that you have read yourself and liked also make for ideal presents. Whether the gifts are big or small, “Giving presents makes us happy because we associate it with positive memories from our childhood. Presents create a connection between children and their parents and trigger a sense of well-being and satisfaction. In moments like these, loneliness and the associated fears disappear and we feel connected to the recipient of the gift, even as adults,” Sidler explains.

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