As a time of gift-giving and mindfulness, the holiday season inspires some to think of creative ways to practice generosity.
And those who make a concerted effort to give back often report significant improvements to their physical and emotional well-being.
A study published in The International Journal of Psychophysiology validated these reports, revealing that people who give social support to others had lower blood pressure than people who didn’t.
Another study performed by the National Institutes of Health found that the functional MRI’s of subjects who gave to various charities showed increased activity within the ‘reward center’ in the brain. Stimulation of this area triggered the release of endorphins, which gave the subject a pleasant feeling, that’s known as a, ‘helper’s high.’
That said, while dodging high blood pressure and experiencing the warm glow of a helper’s high may sound great, some who want to give back shy away from doing so.
They might feel that increased generosity comes with the prerequisite of having an abundance of money and/or free time.
But giving back doesn’t have to be difficult. Seven budget-friendly and relatively quick ways to help others are listed below:
1. Deliver cookies, cake, or another simple dessert to a local fire station.
2. Create care packages for the homeless. Items can include essentials such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, granola bars, water, and an umbrella or blanket.
3. Visit a nursing home and hand out cards or simple gifts like books, lotion, or mints.
4. Bring your children’s outgrown and gently-used winter clothing to a local school, leaving it with the principal’s office to distribute to children as needed.
5. Bring canned food, clothing, or a small monetary donation to a local charity such as The Big Buddy Program or Saint Vincent de Paul.
6. Donate to Sylvia’s Toys
7. Donate to Pat’s Coats for Kids
Giving back during the holidays is a great way to make people feel included and cared for, but generosity doesn’t need to be limited to the brief period between November through January.
When charity becomes a regular, and even daily, habit it can contribute to a longer and happier life.
A University of California, Berkeley, study, proved this, revealing that people 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer — even accounting for other factors like age, exercise, general health and negative habits such as smoking.