These days only some of us are in the habit of helping others on a daily basis, (or weekly, or monthly, or yearly). Life is busy and stressful AND expensive. We tend to settle into our own routines, thinking about our own hectic schedules, and entirely dismiss the idea of reaching out to others who may or may not seem to be in need.
However, as the holidays arrive, we somehow strive to open our hearts to the idea of beneficence. We donate to charitable organizations, volunteer at the food bank or local toy drive, serve Thanksgiving dinner at the soup kitchen, or “adopt” a family and provide gifts for Christmas day. These are all outstanding acts of benevolence – they make a huge difference in the world to both the recipients and those initiating the acts – the “givers.” It’s true that as we extend our generosity, not only do the recipients feel loved, cherished, remembered, and special, but we do too. Reciprocity.
Giving makes us feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier).
In fact, there are numerous studies out there revealing the data as to WHY giving makes US feel so good.
And, that Giving is Good for Our Health:
- Giving Makes Us Feel Happy
- Giving is Good for Our Health
- Giving Promotes Cooperation and Connection
- Giving Evokes Gratitude
- Giving is Contagious
So, if pleasing and providing for others is so good for us AND everyone else, why should we limit it to just a few weeks out of the year?
The answer is, we shouldn’t!
And, on top of that, as we seek to provide favors for others on a daily (or start weekly or monthly in your efforts) basis, why not reach out not just those who show an obvious need, but to EVERYONE around us?
There are certainly many people involved with charitable organizations throughout town who need our help. Hungry and cold families need our donations, our time, and our attention. But, there are also SO many others who live under the radar who need a helping hand too.
Imagine how stressed YOU are this time of year, with all the holiday obligations and financial demands piling up. Now, imagine everyone around you: your coworkers, neighbors, friends, family, and even the milkman. They are struggling with the same first-world problems you are: the kid has been sick for weeks and the parents can’t seem pull it together to cook dinner; long hours at work have led to fast-food meals for weeks on end; the single dad down the street struggles to keep the laundry clean while his three boys return home caked in mud every day; the elderly woman across the road faces the challenge of carrying in her groceries and opening the front door to unload the goods all at once; the list goes on… so many simple things are needed and we all overlook them. And, they really are so simple – so easy.
Thus, in addition to the holiday charity you provide to the needy this year, extend your helping hand beyond just the giving season. Make a habit of providing small acts of service often and to those all around you:
- Bake and deliver a lasagna to the family with the sick kid AND to the late-night working mom
- Offer up laundry service to the single dad down the street
- Assist your elderly neighbor with her groceries and door
- Open the door for a stranger
- Wash your mother’s car
- Allow two or three cars to merge in front of you with traffic
- Give your spouse a backrub (unsolicited)
- Bake your kids cookies
Essentially, do good and lend a helping hand to everyone all around you today and every day. It’s pretty easy AND it’s good for your health!