young woman giving present to senior grandfather indoors at home at Christmas.

November is Thanksgiving time, but what does it all mean? Giving has so many meanings, but the strongest is to make a present or donation to another. When giving is done voluntarily and with the right motive, it shows that such giving benefits not only the recipient but also the giver. There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. When giving is done voluntarily or from the heart, then it becomes more powerful and beneficial to the giver.

According to studies on giving, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, which creates a warm glow effect. Other studies have found that giving money to someone else lifted participants happiness more than spending it on themselves. Have you ever felt like, because of your circumstances, there is not much you can do, like not having enough money or time to give? Well, the truth is that everyone can experience the joy of being a cheerful giver because of the giving impact. When giving with the right motive, the sum does not have to be large. So even if you give small amounts of money, love, complements, or whatever, it will have a positive impact on you as well as the other person.

Kind people are generous, and we are willing to give of ourselves. We give our time, energy, care, love, and much more. This giving approach to life benefits us in various ways, not the least of which is that such generosity is good for our health. Studies indicate that those who volunteer to help others have been found to suffer from fewer illnesses, including less depression. These givers enjoy better health.

In fact, generous giving even improves the health of some who suffer from chronic health problems. It has also been shown that recovering alcoholics who give to others or help others become significantly less depressed and can improve their odds of avoiding a relapse. As to why this is so, it is suggested that feelings of compassion, benevolence and kindness leave less room for negative emotions.

Giving also lowers stress and blood pressure. Therefore, people who lose a loved one to death recover from symptoms of depression sooner if they offer  support to others. Volunteering for grief groups or death cafes can help give to others and be very healthy for all.

Giving is not just for the recipients but also for the givers’ health and happiness and for the strength of entire communities. When we donate to charities or volunteer our time, like delivering food to the homebound or at a homeless shelter, we add to the health of the community in addition to our own health. When we give, it creates a warm glow effect. Scientists believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

In addition, not only do we get a high, but we also get longevity. Research on elders who volunteered for two or more organizations found that they were 44% less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Other researchers suggest that one reason for improved physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems.

When we give, we are more likely to get it back. Several studies have suggested that when we give to others, our generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line — sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else. These giving exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others, and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. In fact, giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is released during sex and breast feeding that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. 

Whether we are giving or receiving, that action or gift can elicit feelings of gratitude. Research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. What this says to me is that both the giver and the receiver of the gift are better off on many levels, and even the community benefits from our giving.  Research has shown that giving generates giving through the community. It even inspires those who have experienced giving to give. The impact of giving can be contagious.  

Whether you give gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just a Halloween or Christmas chore. It will help you build stronger social connections, decrease isolation and loneliness, improve your health, longevity, and even provide a lot of generosity through your community.  Do not be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process. Wow, clearly, giving is important and incredibly valuable. What better way to “add life to years!”

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