Feel More Generous By Reflecting On Moments You've Given, Not Received: Study

Want to feel more selfless and giving? Then you might be better off thinking about the times you've given something of yourself, instead of the times you've received something from someone else.

New research suggests that these feelings of "giving" could spur the urge to want to help others, compared with feelings of "receiving."

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan conducted several experiments in their study, published in the journal Psychological Science.

In one of the studies, the researchers asked study participants, who were university alumni donation fundraisers, to journal about one of two things: either a time they felt grateful for receiving something, or a time they gave something that spurred others to feel grateful.

The researchers found that those asked to journal about giving made more calls asking alumni for donations -- 29 percent more, over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, researchers didn't find a boost in calls made by those who wrote about receiving.

The researchers conducted a second experiment, where they had college students make one of three kinds of lists: A list of three helpful things they've done recently, a list of three ways they've been helped, or a completely unrelated list of three things they ate.

Then, in exchange for participating, the researchers had the study participants come in several weeks later to collect their $5 reimbursement. But when they came in, the researchers gave them a form asking if they wanted to donate all or part of their reimbursement to Japan earthquake or tsunami relief. In total, 26 percent gave at least some money.

The researchers found that people who were asked to make a list of times they've given were the most likely to donate money, with 46.15 percent indicating that they would do so. Meanwhile, 13.33 percent of people asked to make the list of foods they ate said they would give money, and 21.43 percent of people who made a list of times they've received things said they would give money.

Recently, research has shown that some people may be more predisposed to be generous than others. A study published just last month in the journal Neuron found that more altruistic people have different brain structures -- higher amounts of gray matter in the temproroparietal junction region of the brain -- than their less giving counterparts.

However, that's not to say that how we're born is the sole determinant of how giving we are -- study researcher Dr. Ernst Fehr, of the University of Zurich, told HuffPost Science that "social processes" -- like parents teaching their parents to share, and the like -- also play a part.