Why We Love Giving More Than Getting

The end of the year comes with a lot of shopping stress for most of us. No matter which holidays we celebrate, it's likely that we're trying to coordinate a head-spinning number of gifts. We keep doing it, though, and not just because, as psychologists would put it, it's prosocial behavior.

The reason is as simple as you could think: We like giving presents, according to researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. In fact, giving gifts makes us happier longer than receiving them. "If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we're currently consuming and experience something new," said co-author Ed O'Brien in a press release. "Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more that we do it."

Another study released this fall came to a related conclusion: We stay happy longer when we choose how we're happy. Sometimes this means skipping out on stuff altogether — after all, millennials consistently say they'd rather enjoy experiences than stuff. We're getting a lot more practice with gift-giving, thanks to social media, even if giving can be more expensive from state to state. Luckily, there are methods available to help you think about choosing the right present for the right person. It's great that being someone who gives makes us happy, but don't forget who the present is really for.