Each year around Thanksgiving, many American families traditionally sit around a table sharing a meal and giving thanks for the things in their lives for which they are grateful. From good health to good fellowship, reminding ourselves of our blessings not only keeps us humble but also hopeful. But not everyone is so fortunate. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are an estimated half a million Americans who are currently homeless, and “40 million people face hunger in the U.S. today,” according to Feeding America. It is up to all of us to join together in ending this crisis.
The annual National Day of Giving, also known on social media as #GivingTuesday, will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. This year, instead of simply feeling grateful for your own blessings, why not share some of your kindness with strangers in need of a helping hand? It’s not only healthy for humanity, but also has many potential health benefits for your own body and psyche as well.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Why Giving is Good for You
A study from Northwestern University found that having a purpose in life, such as serving others, is good for your mental and physical health. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that do-gooders, such as people who lend a hand in chores and small tasks, experience less stress and may have a lower risk of stress-related illness and death. Here are a few of the potential health benefits of giving.
The Health Benefits of Giving
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Supports Heart Health
- Reduces Stress
- Reduces Depression
- Increases Self-Esteem
- Increases Happiness
- Improves Sleep
Researchers at the University of Oregon found in a separate study that specific pleasure centers of the brain are activated whenever a person is involved in volunteer service or donates money for a good cause. Thus, the act of giving actually triggers “the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin into the bloodstream.” On the other hand, another study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who are considered “stingy” feel more stress, shame, and experience higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Another study proposed that happiness from giving is linked to lower levels of inflammation throughout the body, which may help protect optimal health. In fact, according to a 2006 study in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, participants who gave to others within their social network had lower blood pressure, less depression, and greater self-esteem.
The Beauty of Giving
There is something profound about giving of yourself to others, whether through volunteer service, such as donating your time and labor, or by donating money to a good cause. Here are some ways you can give back.
Ways to Give Back
- Cook a homemade meal and share it with a friend who is alone during the holidays.
- Lend a hand to help out an elderly neighbor with a project.
- Donate to the Salvation Army or your favorite charity.
- Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter.
- Check UnitedWay.org to find more volunteer opportunities near you.
How will you give this holiday season? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash