Increase your happiness through giving this holiday season

Increase your happiness through giving this holiday season

Article posted in Values-Based on 21 November 2014| comments
audience: National Publication, Deborah Goldstein | last updated: 24 November 2014


New contributing author Deborah Goldstein challenges us to elevate our giving during the holiday season and to think about its impact on others and ourselves.

By Deborah Goldstein

Another calendar page has turned and I find myself in November already! And quickly approaching Thanksgiving! I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel ready for the holiday season yet.

I know a sure-fire way to prepare though…start giving! I’m not talking about the traditional gift giving we’re accustomed to during this season. Instead, try giving to others or to organizations or causes you care about. This will definitely increase your happiness and is bound to lighten your mood at this time of year. Try it.

While some people love the holiday season, it is a difficult time for others. It is a reminder of loved ones who have passed or childhood memories forgotten. It’s easy to forget that others might be feeling this way. Take the opportunity to give back and I bet you’ll feel differently about the season.

Here are a few ways to get into the mood for a happier, healthier holiday season:

Just start thinking about giving! It’s true. Research shows that thinking about giving signals the pleasure center in the brain. A good time to start is when you’re sitting around the table at Thanksgiving. Begin by expressing gratitude for what you have in your life (another key to happiness). Then move on to asking how each person might give. For example, you could ask:

  • What motivates you to give?
  • What is most satisfying about giving?
  • If you had $1,000 to give away, how would you allocate it? What if you had $1 million to give away? What if you had $100 to give away?

Now just imagine how you’ll feel once you act on these thoughts of giving!

Help others by giving your time. We often think that our happiness is related to our job, socioeconomic status, or where we live. However, researchers have determined that this only accounts for 10% of our happiness. Fifty percent is genetically pre-set. The remaining 40% is in our control and is related to the intentional activities we engage in, like helping others. Find a way to help your older neighbors this holiday season and you’ll be happier.

In fact, helping others also gives you a “helper’s high” or “giver’s glow.” As we help the neighbor or volunteer at the local food bank, our brain pumps out dopamine, elevating our mood. The great thing is, these actions have a cumulative effect!

The other benefit to helping others is that it reduces depression. The holidays are a difficult time of year for many. Try turning that around by helping someone else.

Volunteering can also add years to your life, regardless of when you start. The key is to do it with regularity.

And be sure to involve your kids as well. You’ll be teaching them lifelong lessons of giving as well as helping to create a protective halo around them as they age.

Help others by giving your treasure. Giving money may seem obvious. Many of us write checks to our favorite organizations at the end of the year. But did you know why you feel good when you make a donation? Just like giving your time, giving money increases dopamine levels in your brain.

I suggest you take some time to review your values before giving. When we give in alignment with our values, the experience will become more meaningful for each of us and for the recipient. Giving comes from a very different place when it’s in line with our core values.  

All of this research reminded me why I love being a part of the world of philanthropy. Not only does giving feel good…it actually IS good for our mental and physical well being!

I’m curious, how does giving make you feel?

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