‘Tis the season…for late nights, long lines, crowded stores, elevated stress and anxiety. While the holidays are a time of togetherness, family and joy; there is almost always some kind of pressure to get it all done...and to get it done perfectly. As we approach the official beginning of the holiday season, it is normal to feel tension, unease and stress. But what can we do to eliminate those from our holiday repertoire?
Remember when you were a child, there was nothing better than getting a gift? Everything down to the big red bow could send you into a tizzy of excitement. Fast forward a few years and while the notion of receiving a gift is still thrilling, we start to understand just how exhilarating it is to be the “gifter”. We always say that the act of giving makes us feel warm and fuzzy...but did you know there is actual science behind that?
Giving most certainly creates a warm glow and that is because it activates areas of the brain linked with a pleasure connection that is associated with other human beings and trust. So while giving is essential to helping others in a community it is also good for your health. Read on for some health benefits (both physical and mental) of giving and let’s really make this the happiest time of the year tied up neatly with less stress and anxiety.
Giving Makes You "Blissful"
Believe it or not those pleasure centers in your brain are stimulated by acts of charity and giving too. Those good feelings that we often associate with other euphoric and tranquil moments we experience, are also triggered when we give to others. People that volunteer live longer and happier lives, smile more and have a greater connection to others. Now that is something I can get on board with!
Giving is Good For Your Health
Stress is the catalyst for many known health issues and studies show that giving has been proven to decrease blood pressure and reduce anxiety and tension. Volunteerism is not only linked to happiness but studies have found that there are abundant health benefits as a result of being charitable. Some of the benefits include increased self esteem, lesser risk of depression, a longer life and greater happiness and satisfaction. Giving to those in need and a reduction in life’s stressors...that sounds like a match made in heaven.
Giving Promotes Social Connection
Giving to others strengthens our ties to other people in the community. Studies show that when you give to others, your generosity is often mimicked and continued down the line. Ever hear of paying it forward? When giving to others, we not only create a sense of closeness with a specific person, we also spread it tenfold. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that reinforces our ties to others. Having positive social interactions with other human beings is central to good mental and physical health.
Giving is Contagious
In a world of too many contagions to count, this seems like just the thing I would like to catch! It is shown that when one person gives, it inspires others to do the same. What an awesome ripple effect of generosity throughout a community. In my opinion, there is no better behavior to inspire than that of giving and charity.
Giving Evokes Gratitude
Gratitude is integral to happiness, health and social bonds. So whether you are giving or receiving a gift, that interaction will most definitely elicit feelings of gratitude. Gratitude helps reinforce kindness and strengthens your bond to one another. Cultivating appreciation is a surefire way to become more optimistic, more altruistic and to feel better about your life overall. Sign me up for that one!
So whether you buy gifts, make charitable donations or volunteer your time, giving is so much more than just a year end project. Giving can help you live longer, smile more, build stronger connections and possibly even jumpstart a cascade of generosity throughout your community. Giving has never felt so good!
Great Ways to Give
Donate to the Cancer Research Institute: funds research on immunotherapy treatment for all cancers.
The Innocence Project: works on exonerating individuals that have been wrongfully convicted thanks to DNA evidence.
Scholarship America: helps send students to college who otherwise would not be able to attend due to financial restrictions.
Global Fund for Women: champions for equality, this charity strives to empower women and girls around the world and ensures they are granted basic human rights.
Action Against Hunger: working to fight malnutrition and food crises in over 20 countries.
Working with Children - Volunteering in a library or children’s museum, children’s hospital or day care program; mentoring and providing leadership for children
Providing Educational Assistance - Helping out with an adult literacy program, working as a tutor for school age children, or helping out at an after school program that strives toward keeping kids productive (Boys and Girls Club)
Environmental Protection - Volunteering to work for a nonprofit association focused on protecting natural resources, or joining active groups focused on protecting the local environment.
Healthcare Research - Participating in walkathons or organizing and/or promoting special event fundraisers
By Melanie Akerberg
People Happiness Manager
Bliss Virtual Services