What Happens To Your Body (And Brain) When You Get A Gift

by | Dec 20, 2016 | Health

Photography by Unsplash

What’s in the gift box?

Doesn’t matter if you’re giving or receiving – your brain straight-up loves a fab pressie.

The Anticipation

If you’re doling out the goods, your brain’s regions for intellect, memory and emotion are busy trying to ID the perfect present for that special someone. All the activity can leave you excited and anxious.

On the receiving end? Sneaking a peek at a wrapped gift can ignite your noggin’s reward centre, releasing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. If your mate hints that what’s inside is beyond awesome, you should both experience this anticipatory pleasure surge.

The Exchange

If you gave or received a winner, your brain’s reasoning and emotion centres pump out oxytocin, the so-called love or bonding chemical. Women tend to get bigger hits of the stuff than guys do – score! That, in turn, unleashes stress-reducing serotonin. Things can become even more intense when it’s a big gift or a huge surprise. The brain fires off arousal signals, which rev up your pulse, tense your muscles and dilate your pupils. And yebo, there’s loads more of that oxytocin, too.

If what you unwrap is more ugh than whoop, the area of your brain that deals with disappointment lights up. With little or no oxytocin rush, you may feel emotionally distant from the giver. One study even found that, after an unsatisfying gift exchange, men rated themselves as less compatible with their girlfriends. Shallow, much?

The Aftermath

Saying thank you – and meaning it – can increase optimism and overall well-being for both parties. Less altruistic bonus: gratitude can also spur on future largesse.

Givers, take note: generosity can trigger extra happy hormones that may keep you cheerful for up to three months – a receiver’s high, by contrast, typically lasts only a few weeks to one month.

Looking for more festive tips? Here are five easy tricks that’ll help you to curb the festive weight gain.

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