Holiday shopping may seem a passionless exercise, especially with all the accompanying commercialization. But the important thing to realize is that giving transcends the physical act of exchange and the spending of money. What truly matters is the personal sensitivity involved and the underlying act of generosity. New studies attest to the health benefits of giving; both for the recipient as well the giver. Here are the ways you can benefit:
A longer life
Giving can be as beneficial to your health as exercise, eating right, and having good genes. A study from the University of Michigan revealed that generosity boosts mental and physical health. An additional study from Michigan examined 2,700 men over 10 years and found that those who regularly volunteered had death rates 2.5 times lower than men who didn’t. Researchers attribute this benefit to reduced stress levels, increased physical activity, and enhanced self-esteem associated with performing charitable acts.
Stronger social bonds
Giving promotes cooperation and enhances social bonds. Selfless exchanges help develop a sense of trust while strengthening our ties with others. Studies have shown that fostering positive social interactions with others is essential for good mental and physical health. Additionally, kind and generous acts lead to perceiving others as more positive and charitable – an attitude which boosts morale and promotes a sense of well-being.
A boost of self confidence
Need a natural, instant confidence boost? Try giving! Sharing, volunteering, and gift exchanges are all excellent ways to focus on the happiness of others, and in turn feel better about your self. Research shows that meaningful giving will help you feel like a better person.
Shift focus towards others
Naturally we spend a lot of mental energy focusing on ourselves. As the saying goes, “you are your own toughest critic,” so much of this focus tends to be negative. Constant focus on personal flaws and fretting about potential gains can wreak havoc on our stress levels. The act of giving redirects that often self-deprecating mental energy towards the happiness of others. In turn, you will feel energized, happier, and yet again – more connected to others.
A study of children found that those who received praise without doing anything to earn it did not experience higher self-esteem as a result of that praise. Conversely, when children were praised for acts of generosity, their self-esteem did increase. Compliments are nice, it turns out we only get a boost from the ones we feel worthy of. Seeing the positive effect you can have on others prompts a whole new recognition of self and your ability to influence your surroundings.
A sense of gratitude
Whether you are the giver or the recipient, a gift can prompt feelings of gratitude. Research has shown that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and the establishing of relationships. Historically, gratitude has been such a powerful feeling that many enduring philosophies and major world religions are based on it.
Giving is contagious
Giving can branch out and cause a ripple effect of generosity. As a University of San Diego and Harvard study discovered, when a person acts generously, it inspires observers to behave similarly towards others. Additional studies have found that the love hormone, oxytocin, also produces a feeling of generosity and empathy which can last up to two hours.