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Tis The Season: The Mental Health Benefits of Holiday Giving

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holidayHanukkah started more than a week ago.  Kwanzaa is another two days away, the Prophet’s Birthday is even further off, today is Christmas Eve and I still have five more gifts to buy and three more charitable donations to make before I complete my holiday giving list (not to mention a blog post to write before the day is done).

Like a lot of people, I have waited until the last minute to do my holiday shopping.  Maybe that is why I am feeling more stressed right now than full of peace and grateful for my blessings.   My plan for the day involves a trip to the mall, visits to the websites of my favorite charities, and a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up last minute items (after I write that blog post, of course).  It all seems rather daunting at ten o’clock this morning.  But relief is in sight.  Twelve hours from now I will be home with my family truly enjoying the spirit of the season.

The holidays are a stressful time for most of us.  For some, it’s time of unbearable temptation, loneliness, or despair.  But there is a reason why we invest so much emotion in the season, and much of it has to do with giving.

It is easy to be cynical when we see retail outlets opening their doors to holiday shoppers on Thanksgiving Day and online retailers advertising pre-Black Friday sales weeks in advance.  But amid all the commercial frenzy of the season, something very positive is happening:  people are giving, and giving is really good for you.

Maybe you always knew this.  But social scientists and psychologists are beginning to discover the reasons why giving is so good for human beings.  Here’s how…

Why Giving Is Good for You

Giving makes you happy.  Several studies have shown that giving creates a “warm glow” effect that can actually be measured in the brain with scanning technology.

Giving makes you healthy.  Giving, volunteering, and helping other people have been linked to better health, even in the elderly and chronically ill.

Giving promotes social connection.  When you give, you are more likely to get back, which strengthens social ties to others.

Giving evokes gratitude.  Like giving, gratitude is also linked to better mental and physical health.  For every time one person gives, two people get to bask in the “warm glow” of gratitude.

Giving is contagious.  A recent study at UC San Diego has shown that when one person behaves generously, other subjects are inspired to behavior generously to different people.

For many people, the holidays of this season have deep religious significance.  For others, it is a time of family togetherness and community spirit.  Whatever our beliefs and practices, we mark this time of year in acts of giving.   And giving is very good for us – as individuals and as one human race.

Happy Giving and Much Gratitude to You and Your Family this Holiday Season!

(One more item off my checklist!)

Jay Boll, Editor in Chief



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Jay Boll, Editor in Chief www.rtor.org