Giving Charity Increases Happiness

One of the things we advocate is having a monthly sadaqah (charity) expense coming from your budget, even if it’s $5.

Not only does it provide blessings in your own wealth, but it has an effect on your own mood and happiness.

A recent study by Michael North, Harvard Business Professor, discusses giving money and it’s relationship with happiness:

Money, for the most part, can’t buy you happiness. In fact, several psychological studies conducted on lottery winners found that their temporary spike in happiness levels is short-lived, and that some even experienced profound misery in the years following their win.

However, Harvard Business professor Michael Norton argues that money can bring you increased happiness – as long as you don’t spend it on yourself. In his fascinating TED talk, Norton talks about experiments that he conducted around the world to determine whether or not money could, in fact, buy happiness.

Norton and his team approached random individuals, asked them how happy they were, and then handed them an envelope with a random sum between $5 to $20 inside. Half of the participants received instructions to spend the cash on themselves (buy a treat, pay bills, etc.), and the other half to spend it on others.

From privileged college campuses in Canada to the poorest city neighborhoods in Uganda, one central theme emerged from their experiments: those who spent money on others reported increased happiness, while those who spent it on themselves experienced no additional joy.

Chuck Feeney, a famous Irish-American billionaire who has joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in their giving pledge, sums it up quite nicely:

“I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living – to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”

“Using your money to promote underindulgence requires a shift in behavior, for sure”, explains Norton. “But another scientifically validated means of increasing the happiness you get from your money is even more radical: not using it on yourself at all.”

What does that mean for your wallet? Next time you’re wondering what to do with that crumpled $10 bill, consider buying some groceries for a shelter, or paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you – you might just be able to ‘buy some happiness’, after all.


Adam Taufique

Adam Taufique is a founding member of Qur'an Weekly and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb in his community and has served in Masjids from being a weekend school teacher to youth coordinator. You can follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @adamtaufique.

One Comment

  1. July 9, 2013

    Very nice post and I agree with you. This is a fact when you do something for someone who is needy. You will feel good. When you shared happiness Allah loves your more.


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