Want to Be Happier? Spend Money on Others

"The reallocation of wealth in societies such as ours has traditionally been justified by the fact that the poor seem to benefit from the gain of a dollar more than the rich suffer from its loss," Gilbert said in an e-mail. "[Dunn and her team's] studies suggest that when reallocation is voluntary rather than mandatory, both the poor and the rich gain a benefit and no one seems to suffer a loss. Mandatory reallocation may bring more pleasure than pain, but 'pleasure for all and pain for none' is a much more exciting possibility."

Dunn, who wasn't surprised by the studies' outcomes, said that she believes that her hypothesis could extend beyond just giving money to others, but giving time to others as well.

"We wanted to do this first with money. We think it's an interesting question ... [but] I don't think there's anything truly special about money," Dunn said. "Whether that's money or time or special skills -- if we use those resources for other people, we'll feel better about ourselves. [Money] is a vehicle -- and a powerful one -- that can be used to accomplish any goal and why shouldn't it be directed to a goal that can help others?"

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