For many of us, helping, giving to others makes us feel good, as well as the people we are helping. You can call it the “warm fuzzies!” Maybe you help out at a soup kitchen, or you buy a homeless person a meal. How about holding open a door for somebody with full arms or giving up your seat for an elderly person who is obviously struggling? Whatever the act of kindness, giving delivers both to the one giving and the one receiving.
There are other benefits, according to research. Giving makes you feel happy; it activates the pleasure center in your brain, generating the warm fuzzies! It is possible that endorphins are also released in the brain at the same time. Giving may also be linked to the release of a hormone that produces feelings of warmth and connectivity to others.
In an older study conducted at University of California at Berkeley, older adults who volunteered for at least two organizations experienced significantly lower death rates, consistent over five years, than those who did not volunteer their time. Giving decreases stress – or is it that it gives you better coping skills? Or both? And you likely know from experience that when you give, even if it doesn’t come back from the same person, someone somewhere gives back to you.
Being a giving person will also help others who observe your giving think more highly of you. While heartfelt giving is not necessarily for recognition, it doesn’t hurt, right?! (More warm fuzzies.) Giving is also catchy - by performing acts of kindness, you end up inspiring others to do the same.
How can we give to family members, even our kids, the same way we may be giving to strangers? One way is to take time to read to your younger child. If you’re baking for the holidays, you can bake a little extra and give it to relatives. You can teach your kids to give away older toys and clothes to people who may not have money to buy nice things (especially since kids grow and need new things).
Perhaps the best way to give to family members, especially kids, is to model taking excellent care of yourself. By this I mean taking “me” time (self-care), eating nourishing foods which helps to keep your own moods in check, something especially important at the holidays. You can prepare healthy meals with the help of your kids and take it to a nursing home or a homeless shelter. Remember the words, food-mood connection, because it surely holds true. If you’re newer to holistic health approaches to mental, physical, and spiritual health, take some time to learn how to improve your own health. This serves as a very meaningful role model to your kids and other family members. In fact, you – the parent – are your kids’ most important role model, no matter what it may seem like! (Yes, research has proved the truth of this over the long run.)
Perhaps most key to the act of giving is to give to yourself first – and we call that self-care. When you take good care of yourself, you are much more able to reach out and help others in so many other ways, the strongest of which being by your own role model. (Actions speak louder than words….)
Health and Wellness Online would like to wish you a happy, holistically healthy holiday season. Make it really count!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.