University of British Columbia professor Elizabeth Dunn made headlines when she co-authored a paper "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness." But in her new TED Talk, Dunn said it's not just about spending. It's also about what we spend it on.
"What we see in our work is that you're likely to get the biggest emotional boost from giving to others if you can do so in a way where you really get to see the impact your generosity is having and you feel a sense of connection with the people or cause that you're helping," she said Friday on "CBS This Morning."
Dunn believes there are biological underpinnings of giving that can explain why it creates such a positive response in people.
"Human beings have evolved to experience joy from giving because actually our survival really depends on our willingness to make some sacrifices along the way to help each other out," she said.
Statistics even suggest that giving to charity can make the same difference in one's happiness as having twice as much income would. According to a Gallup poll administered around the globe, people who give money to charity are happier than those who do not, even after taking into account their own financial situation.
Dunn experienced the phenomenon firsthand when she became involved in a Canadian program that sponsors Syrian refugee families. It required participants to actually help settle that family into their own community instead of just offering financial support.
"There is also evidence that spending time helping overs can make a difference for our happiness," she said. "But we see in our work with money, you know you don't have to be Bill Gates, you don't have to be giving a giant amount of money. Even in our work, we've seen that giving as little as $5 to help somebody else can actually give you this detectable boost that you feel throughout the day."