No one likes any surprise more than unwrapping a present. Even better than getting a gift is receiving a gift. Not only is gift giving part of birthdays, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Christmas and other celebrations but it is used to express feelings of gratitude and affection for another person. While the idea of gift-giving seems like a recent phenomenon the history of gift-giving actually dates back much further.
Historians have estimated that the act of giving each other gifts predates civilization as we know it. Our cave dwelling ancestors gave each other gifts much like we do today. While they likely did not wrap the gifts in fancy papers and top them with bows the sentiment remains the same. Gifts like abnormally shaped rocks, rare animal teeth, useful tree bark, or food were given in place of gift baskets like the ones found at GiftTree or other common gifts like clothing items or toys for children. Eventually as humans and our civilizations evolved our gift giving traditions evolved as well. One thing that has not changed over the years is the reason that we exchange gifts. That reason boils down to the psychology behind how giving gifts affects us.
Giving another person a gift actually has a positive psychological effect on the gift giver. The common phrase, “It is better to give than to receive”, rings especially true. The gift giver feels happier about themselves and often sees an improvement in their mental state. One main explanation for the positive mental state is the effect that gift giving has on furthering our social connections with others. We as humans are social animals and as such need to develop deeper connections with others in order for our lives to feel fulfilling. By giving another person a gift, a bond is formed between the two individuals and leads to a more meaningful connection.
In addition to improved happiness and mental state, gift giving is also contagious. Usually, things that are contagious, such as the flu and other diseases, are not a positive thing but contagious gift giving is wonderful. Giving a gift to an individual causes them to be more likely to turn around and give someone else a gift as well. You can see this action then leads to a chain reaction of gift giving and further on the chain of giving gifts and making others happy.
One such type of contagious giving is charitable giving. Organizations have been set up to handle donations. The National Capital Gift Planning Council is one such example.
While the general tradition of gift giving has no specified start date, the beginning of charitable giving can be attributed to the Ancient Hebrews. As early as 2500 BCE, the Ancient Hebrews instituted a mandatory tax or “tithe” that was used to feed and clothe the poor. A word, philanthropy, was invented in 500 BCE to describe this type of giving. Philanthropy means the desire to help others especially by giving donating money to good causes. Whatever type of gift giving you engage in enjoy the positive benefits and enjoy the satisfaction of spreading joy.