Looks like your mother was right — giving gifts really is better than receiving them. A recent study found that simply doing a random act of kindness for your spouse, no matter how small, could boost your emotional wellbeing. This was true even if the recipient was unaware of the good deed. The findings back the idea that altruism is good for humanity, even if it seems people are selfish by nature.

The study found that doing small acts of kindness for the benefit of others, such as expressing tenderness or cleaning the snow off a spouse’s car before they go to work, can actually help improve the doer’s wellbeing. In fact, data showed that the overall emotional benefits for the giver were about 45 percent greater than for the recipient, Time reported Although the researchers hypothesized that couples would benefit most when these acts of kindness were recognized, this proved not to be the case. These emotional wellbeing boosts persisted when these acts of kindness went unrecognized, Time reported.

Read: The Psychology of Altruism: Is Saving Others' Lives Inherently a Selfish Act?

For the study, the team had 175 newlywed couples, who had been married for an average of seven months, record the instances of when they did something kind for their partner and when they noticed their partner had done something kind for them. Of course, the researchers admitted that their study had a number of drawbacks that may have influenced the results. For example, all of the couples in the study were newlyweds. They may have still been in the honeymoon part of their relationship, and therefore their results may not be reflective of couples who have been married for longer periods of time.

However, these results do fit along a common evolutionary idea that altruism, or doing acts of kindness for no other reason than to be nice, is part of human nature. In a 2016 study, psychologists from UCLA attempted to prove that altruism was hardwired into the brain. For the study, the team had volunteers conduct a number of experiments, such as monitoring their brains as they imitated various facial expressions and partook in a game where they were given the choice to either share their winnings or keep them for themselves. The results of the study showed that time and time again, the majority of participants showed altruistic behaviors, suggesting that it may be encoded into our brains.

At first glance, doing something in return for nothing may not make sense, but there may be some unforeseen benefits to altruism. A 2016 study suggested that altruistic people had more sex. For the study, researchers interviewed individuals and documented behaviors such as whether they gave to charity or donated blood. The team also interviewed participants on their love life. Results showed that the kinder and more altruistic the individual, the more successful their sex life was.

Source: Reis HT, Maniaci MR, Rogge RD. Compassionate Acts and Everyday Emotional Well-Being Among Newlyweds. Emotion . 2017

See Also:

Altruistic People Have More Sex, New Study Shows

The Human Brain May Be Hardwired For Altruism; Certain Activity Inspires People To Be Kind And Generous