“If there’s a magic pill for happiness and longevity, we may have found it.” ~ Terri Yablonsky Stat of the Chicago Tribune
This holiday season can elicit a myriad of emotions in everyone. It may be the consumerist’s very favorite time as they exuberantly bound out their door to shop. Minimalists may view it as a useless time to load up on more things we don’t need, grinching their way to less. It may be a capitalist’s dream of a “Hallmark Holiday” as everyone ventures out to spend their hard-earned cash or even better, go into debt.
Or maybe we can view it as something a little different… Something a little more impactful.
This holiday season may be the time we can simply practice the act of giving. And I’m not just talking the cheesy greeting card or overpriced plastic stuff – I’m talking true, intentional and emotionally-driven giving.
To give is “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.”
Giving makes you feel good. We’ve heard that before, but how can it do that and why is it important?
Giving means you are freely transferring the possession of something to someone. It can take the form of monetary representation or physical space, but it can also be something as simple as an emotion. The transfer and exchange of kindness or happiness can be one of the most rewarding gifts given this season.
“Studies show that when people think about helping others, they activate a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, which is responsible for feelings of gratification. Helping others doles out happiness chemicals, including dopamine, endorphins that block pain signals and oxytocin, known as the tranquillity hormone.”
Physical gift-giving is not a necessary part of this wonderful holiday season. It can simply be a healthy time to reflect on and recognize the impact we have on others daily.
The form of giving takes many forms. Some of these include:
- Donating money to a specific cause or charity.
- Physical gifting to friends and family.
- Allowing employees the time they need to spend with loved ones.
- Volunteering for local charitable events, at soup kitchens or for other worthy causes.
- Donating gently used or new items to organizations that provide for needy families.
- Making someone’s day better through kindness.
Although giving is good for us, there’s still a caveat when it comes to giving – we’ve got to give selflessly and with the best intention for the other in mind. If we give altruistically, it can bring us joy, create more meaning in how we feel about life, promotes generosity in others as a ripple effect, and can increase self-esteem. It decreases depression, improves happiness and can increase life expectancy. It’s said we can even experience more joy when giving than receiving.
This is great, but how do we give altruistically?
Altruism: [al-troo-iz-uh m] “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.”
If you are having trouble determining the best action to take when it comes to emotionally-grounded altruistic giving, consider a role model you have or folks you know personally who inspire you. What practices do they have or actions do they take that motivate you to initiate change?
Simply by sharing your health, wellness or positive jolly spirits, you can make a healthy choice to share with someone today. You never know what someone else is going through and your impact may just change their day from negative to positive. It may set them on a wholly different path where they go on to become humanitarians at work internationally! Who knows what you’re capable of if you put yourself out there!!!!
Physical and psychological benefits of giving are aplenty:
- Lower blood pressure.
- Lower risks of dementia.
- Less anxiety and depression.
- Reduced cardiovascular risk.
- Overall greater happiness.
- Less trouble sleeping.
- Lowered feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Better friendships and social networks.
- A sense of control over chronic conditions.
- Reduced mortality rates.
What you do, say, or how you respond to others will create ripple effects you will never get to witness. But if you walk through life with confidence and have the best intentions at heart, you WILL change their world for the better. Gift-giving is a way to transfer the joy you have to another. Giving is ideally selfless because you’re providing something for someone else! More importantly, the giver can oftentimes benefit more and longer than the receiver.
Instead of heading out to buy more things this holiday, it may be that we can rethink the way we see giving. Giving of time, of energy or of oneself emotionally is something that people will never forget. Spending time with our children, helping parents around the house, assisting neighbors in setting up decorations, or being generous in any encounters with a stranger. Physical gift-giving is not a necessary part of this wonderful holiday season. Instead, this can be a healthy time to reflect on and recognize the impact we have on others daily.
Outside of physical presents ask yourself:
- How can I be of service to someone today?
- How can I share the successes of my life to improve someone else’s?
- What can I do to better someone’s life right now?!
- How is my mood going to affect the people around me?
- In what way can I offer up a generous act to a stranger?
From personal experience, gift-giving doesn’t have to be elaborate. If we can be more conscious about the way we interact with others, then we can give more freely of our emotions.
Many years ago while walking down the street in Santa Barbara, I was either distracted, headed in a specific direction or late. Either way, I was not particularly unhappy, but I wasn’t involved in each moment I encountered along my path. As I moved down the street in haste, a man said to me ‘Excuse me miss, but you dropped your smile.’ At first, it didn’t register and I turned to look behind me on the ground. When I realized what he’d said I couldn’t help but crack a smile. I thanked him for the reminder and went about my way.
That moment in time affected my mood positively and has impacted me for years as a sweet memory. Knowing the small impact we can have on others by transfer of happiness, of genuine compassion and of attention to the moment is one tip this holiday season I can’t do without.
We each choose how we move through the holidays. We can choose the consumerist, minimalist, or capitalist mindset. However, be reminded that along with these options, we can also choose altruistic giving as a mindset. We can consider it an act of service for our families, our communities and importantly over the long term, even for ourselves.