The holidays are filled with every emotion out there. You feel happy, giddy, thrilled, excited sad, angry, stressed, concerned, confused, and everything in between. Luckily during this time, there is one cure-all for the negative emotions; give to others.
There is actually emotional health benefits to giving — and not just for the givers but for the recipients’ health and happiness as well. You can go so far as to say it actually strengthens the entire community. Whether you go shopping for gifts, make monetary donations, or spend some time volunteering your time at your local charities. Giving is good for you and your community.
Feelings of Happiness
Giving makes us feel happy. It is that plain and simple. Giving something to someone else lifts our feelings of happiness more than spending it on ourselves, despite what we may think. It actually turns out that these feelings end up being reflected in our biology. When we give, it actually activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Which in turn creates a happy, warm effect, unlike the short-term pleasure reason that is affected when spoiling ourselves. Scientists have also stated that this behaviour, also known as altruism, will releases endorphins in the brain, producing a high in the giver. Hence the name “helpers’ high”.
Feelings of Well-Being
Giving makes us feel healthier. It just so happens to be that generosity will lead to better health, even among the sick and elderly. It has actually shown to increase health benefits of all sorts, for all ages, even in people with chronic illness.
Not to mention it makes you live longer! We are pretty sure this is just so you can give more. There have been an amazing amount of studies done with elderly participants who volunteered, and they ended up being almost 50% less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Almost 50%... that’s incredible. It was noted that even individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period. This is due to the fact that giving actually lowers stress.
Feelings of Connections
When you reached out to people, those people will end up reaching back to you. You build a connection and an unseen bond between you and the receiver. And it doesn’t stop there, it actually promotes a sense of giving in those who have received. They end up paying it forward further connecting you to other humans on this planet. This connection promotes a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to the earth and all its inhabitants. Since we end up fostering a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in our social community we not only give but receive charity more easily, this, in turn, boosting our health and happiness.
Feelings of Gratitude
It doesn’t matter which end you’re on - giving or receiving - you will feel gratitude. Which has been found to be a key and integral part to not only our own happiness, health, and social bonds, but that of everyone else as well?
When you take the time to count your blessings and cultivate gratitude, research has shown that it can actually cause an increase in wanting to exercise, be optimistic, and the general feel-good emotions we store in our brain call oxytocin. How cool is it that when you express your gratitude, you reinforce kindness and strengthen your bonds.
When we spend some time giving, we not only help the immediate recipient, we spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community. It’s almost like the flu, but much much better. In fact, just like 3 degrees of separation, this kindness spreads from person to person to person to person. Therefore, each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, people you have never met, and may never meet.
So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just Christmas chore. It will build stronger social connections for you and even jumpstart a generosity spark throughout your community. And best of all you get to feel happy. Try and perform five small acts of kindness each week, and see what that does for you and those you love.