Spending Money = Good For The Brain + Lowers Blood Pressure

Why spending money is good for you and your brain

There are a few things your brain really dislikes. Like loads of sugar, too much alcohol and dehydration. There are also things your brain loves, like brain training, physical exercise, quality sleep and also, surprisingly, spending money. 

With intense money splurging occasions each year, like Black Friday and Christmas, we can be left feeling guilty and regretful about what we’ve bought and how much we’ve spent. Especially when you know full well that your little niece Lottie will play with that £60 microphone twice and then smash it up whilst her mum’s filming and egging her on. But she’s worth it, right..? 

Spending money can sometimes be unavoidable, so rather than beating yourself up about it, we’re going to highlight a few science-backed ways in which your brain may actually benefit from spending money, ensuring that this year you can embrace the shopping spirit and spend what you need to, guilt-free.

Spending money on others promotes happiness 

Spend money on others to increase your brain’s dopamine and happiness levels. 

Christmas and Black Friday are fine examples of when spending money on others is rife. Some people start shopping in August to make sure they splash the cash on others rather than on throwaway impromptu things for themselves, allowing them to feel the benefits before anyone else. And it seems that this season of giving is exceptionally impactful on happiness levels. 

When researching how and why spending money can make your brain happy, there were thousands of studies showing why spending money on others promotes happiness. Amongst these was Elizabeth W. Dunn’s findings. Dunn found that “spending more of one’s income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending)… Participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves.” In a later study she had shown that “the benefits of such prosocial spending emerge among adults around the world, and the warm glow of giving can be detected even in toddlers.” 

Dunn says that the benefits felt when giving are likely to happen because they satisfy core human needs such as “relatedness, competence, and autonomy.” The rewards of prosocial spending can be seen in both the brain and body and could be tapped into by organisations and governments for potential positive outcomes. 

Spending money wisely can make you a better decision maker 

Science has proven that we often spend money to feel more in control. We go into a store, try something on or pick something up and then decide if we like it/need it enough to warrant buying it. It is our brain making these decisions. It’s also nice to know that we have a back-up (hello receipt) if our decision-making skills were way off that day. The point is that when you spend money you’re using the decision-making part of the brain, the Striatum, the hub for all resolutions. Here’s how decision making works according to neuroscience author Susan Perry: 

“ The process is organized like a court trial. Sights, sounds, and other sensory evidence are entered and registered in sensory circuits in the brain. Other brain cells act as the brain’s “jury,” compiling and weighing each piece of evidence. When the accumulated evidence reaches a critical threshold, a judgment — a decision — is made.” 

If you can control your spending by making these court trial-esque decisions, you can begin to work on, train and ultimately take control of your decision making skills. In the same way you train your decision making skills in the Peak app, you can potentially train your brain to make confident decisions in real life. 

Next time you’re in TK Maxx or Macey’s, have a conversation with yourself and decide whether you really need those red velvet, glitter-edged flares at $300 for New Year’s Eve, or if the pair of jeans you’ve needed all year are the better option at $100. Tough decision. To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

Spending money may lower blood pressure

It’s time to encourage your loved ones to treat you to more gifts. A heart-racing study by Whillians et al., with the American Psychological Association uncovered some hearty and wholesome facts about spending your bucks on others. In their first study they found, “the more money people spent on others, the lower their blood pressure was 2 years later.” And in their second study, “participants who were assigned to spend money on others for 3 consecutive weeks subsequently exhibited lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to participants assigned to spend money on themselves.” These findings suggest “spending money on others shapes cardiovascular health, thereby providing a pathway by which prosocial behavior improves physical health among at-risk older adults.” When your Grandma gifts you a box of chocolates or shoves a tenner into your pocket, take it! The benefits she’ll get will be just as good as your own.   

Why are these findings important and useful? During high-pressure and high-stress holidays such as Black Friday and Christmas, it’s encouraging to know that there are at least a few science-backed brain and body benefits for your brain and body when you’re splashing the cash, sowing the dough or sploshing the dosh.

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Sources Cited:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5870/1687.long

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963721413512503

https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2016-06802-001

https://www.brainfacts.org/archives/2009/decision-making

All information featured in Peak – Brain Training articles are provided for informational purposes only and are not substitutes for medical or physician advice.

Maisie Bygraves

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