Although I’m not much of a winter girl, (even though I’m from Utah!) I do love the Holidays. I’m guessing the things I love about the Holidays are similar to what you may love about this time of year: lights on the houses, wreaths on the doors, trees glowing from the windows, scents of cinnamon, pine, and peppermint, Holiday tunes on the radio and in the stores, time with loved ones, watching the stillness of the first snow fall, and of course, the delicious food. Something else I enjoy are the many opportunities to give to others-family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers.
I think one of the reasons we enjoy giving to others is because it feels good. More specifically we tend to feel positive, happy, and uplifted when we give to others. Giving to and serving others has been identified by research as being a happiness habit that people can engage in to cultivate more lasting happiness and satisfaction. In one study, significant increases in happiness were reported for research participants who performed five acts of kindness one day a week for six weeks (Lyubomirksy et. al., 2005). In another study, individuals who were given a $10 gift card, but chose to use it in a way where they gave it to another person, but also spent time with the receiver felt the happiest compared to other individuals who either gave it away or used it on themselves while spending time with someone else (Dunn et. al., 2011).
Research completed by Dunn and Norton (2013) found that acts of giving are most effective or have the largest impact on our happiness when the following criteria are met: 1) the giving is a choice 2) you connect with the person(s) you’re helping 3) you see and/or learn about the impact your giving will have. Giving is a choice means that you were not pressured nor did you feel obligated to give. Creating a connection means you spent some time with the recipient(s) of the gift (e.g. giving your time to help someone move, helping your neighbor shovel their driveway, tutored children learning to read). Seeing the impact means you took some time to find out what your gift will go toward (e.g. read about how your online donation will be used, asked what the money you were donating would go toward).
There are many ways to give to others. And in case you need some help getting started, below are some ideas keeping the three criteria outlined above in mind:
1) Volunteer to teach your talents to others (e.g. sewing, crocheting, woodwork, ceramics, etc.).
2) Donate food to a food bank/homeless shelter and help serve a meal to the patrons.
3) Pay it forward in the drive-thru line.
4) Donate money to your child’s school. Ask what the money will be used for.
5) Small acts of kindness are great too! Hold the door for someone. Give up your seat on the bus/train/while waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Help a friend with a chore. Make breakfast for your partner.
Happy Holidays from all of us at CHATS!!
This article was written by Tessa Salisbury, Ph.D. Dr. Tessa has been working at CHATS since December 2015. She feels blessed and grateful to be there.