MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the most charitable time of the year, and Minnesotans are known for their generosity. It got us wondering about that old saying, “It’s better to give than receive.”

As good as it can feel to get what you want, it may actually feel better to give others what they need.

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Vivian Treadwell, who gives free meals daily on the east side of St. Paul, knows that feeling of giving, too.

“A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on purchasing, going out shopping everywhere. But to me, the true meaning of Christmas is helping those in need,” Treadwell said.

And in northeast Minneapolis, Carolyn Deters is a professional giver. After caregiving for her grandmother, she turned her career into full-time giving at Gifts for Seniors.

“Last year we served about 6,717 seniors throughout the Twin Cities metro and surrounding areas,” Deters said. “It’s deeply fulfilling for me personally.”

(credit: CBS)

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Turns out, that feeling isn’t just emotional — It’s also physical. Dr. David Ludden, a professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, wrote an article on this very subject in “Psychology Today.”

“There’s a chemical in the brain called dopamine, it’s a pleasure chemical in the brain, and we actually get a kind of a release of dopamine whenever we, you know, give freely,” Ludden said. “In most cases, yes, yeah, it is better to give than to receive.”

He says giving actually lowers the stress hormone cortisol and raises that feel-good hormone of dopamine.

“In other words, giving, giving freely to another person is actually a stress reducer,” he said.i “In order to survive as a group, we have to be willing to give to other people. And so what Mother Nature’s come up with is it actually gives us a little boost of pleasure every time we give something to other people. I think that’s what that saying ‘it’s better to give than to receive’ actually means, is that fact that whenever you give you’re actually getting something in return.”

Dr. Ludden says there are a few cases where giving doesn’t feel good: if you’re forced to give, or if it feels like the gift isn’t appreciated.

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Overall, he says giving is a natural high, and buying a gift for others feels better than buying something for yourself.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield