T’is the season for giving! And while it feels great to give material gifts to those you love, did you know that it also has direct health benefits for you in return?
People who are generous actually have the upper hand when it comes to their health. Research shows that those who give, and not just material gifts but more meaningful gifts as well, are happier, more optimistic, have lower blood pressure, and increased immune systems. Not only does altruism benefit your own health, but studies have shown that generosity from you will often inspire generosity from others, therefore creating a domino effect of giving.
At a time of year when finances are often stretched beyond comfortable limits, it is important to remember that giving does not necessarily mean purchasing and giving material goods to one another. There are several meaningful ways in which you can “give” during the holiday season, something you can do in the name of others, all of which are guaranteed to boost your mental well-being and can actually make you feel healthier at the same time!
The Gift of your Time
When organizations ask for donations, sometimes the gift of your time to volunteer can have just as much of an impact as your money. Some examples of this may include helping to run a donation drive at your local religious or community center, help to give out food at your local Food Bank, assist in distributing donated goods through your local thrift shop or community homeless program (i.e. warm winter coat drives, giving out gloves, etc.), and/or driving patients to treatments and appointments. Or you can give your time to those who are simply seeking some company over the holiday season. Seniors living in a residence facility or in hospital may enjoy some extra company at a time of year when they feel more lonely than usual. Also, children’s hospitals are often looking for assistance with holiday programs and entertainment. All of these ideas cost nothing but your time.
The Gift of your Words
The holiday season is a time for reconnection with friends and family, and often times that includes those with whom you may not have kept in close touch throughout the year. By calling or visiting with these people, sharing in conversation and catching up, you are boosting both their health and yours through expressing feelings aloud. Another way to give through your words is to call or visit with those for whom you are truly thankful in your life and tell them what they mean to you. If this is a difficult exercise for you, consider writing them an e-mail or letter instead. Altruism is a proven mood booster for all involved, leaving everyone feeling happier.
The Gift of Fundraising
If you do have money to spend on giving this season, why not donate it to a place where it will have maximum impact? Research some of your favorite charities and find out exactly how the funds are spent. Once you have all the details, consider hosting a charitable dinner or game night over the holidays. This is a great way to gather friends and family, while collecting funds for a worthwhile cause. You could “charge” a donation for entrance to the party, or create games and contests for which people make a donation to participate. You can do this in lieu of some gifts or holiday cards. Get creative and engage others in your generosity!
The Gift of Supporting Local Business
When you do purchase a gift for someone in your life, try supporting a local business. Often times, smaller businesses are family-run, showcasing hand-made, one of a kind products. By supporting local, you are boosting your town’s economy, helping a family business thrive and supporting the environment too. Locally made goods require less fuel in transportation and often require minimal packaging.
Science supports the theory that generous people often live longer through being more at peace within themselves. Give one of these ideas a try this holiday season and see how good you feel afterwards!