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Why Giving Your Best Gives So Much Back

By Sandy Schroeder

If you take your kids out to a senior home, armed with cookies and Christmas carols, or show up at a community hospital carrying baskets of little gifts, you know all about the magic of giving. The smiles, tears and hugs are amazing. Not only are the recipients delighted, but you come away with a lighter heart too.

Researchers tell us this often makes a real health deposit that we may not even recognize. Those warm feelings may help to lower our stress, reduce our blood pressure, and boost our immune system.

If you don’t believe it, try it. All it takes is one excursion out there, where you extend yourself, and the message comes bouncing back: Giving usually gives back way more than what we give.

Gratitude Helps Us Thrive

Gratitude is one of the golden gifts that comes back to us when we give of ourselves.  Researchers tell us gratitude can enrich our health, happiness and social glue. When we take the time to really find the perfect gift for someone, or make a gift of homemade jelly or woven art, we are giving of ourselves, not just writing a check.

I saw this close up at my house when a family member was literally holding his breath as he waited for me to unwrap what he knew would be the perfect gift, a massive unabridged dictionary.  Not your everyday gift, but as a writer, I treasure it, even in the digital age, as words are easily Googled.

A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner enriches the ties.

Generosity Just Spills Over

Think about the times, when you have just stopped even if you were busy, to help someone who was in real need. It may have taken a little time, effort or money, but it was the right thing to do. Kids learn from this kind of kindness, and often repeat the process when they grow up.

As the holidays move closer, look for more ways to give.

  • Help someone who is a shut-in. Share your Christmas. Stop by with homemade goodies, and stay to talk.
  • Volunteer at your local library, hospital or community kitchen. You could help decorate, distribute gifts or serve holiday dinners.
  • Contribute to your local canned goods and toy drives.

As you look around, you and your family will probably think of many other ways to reach out in the holidays ahead. Whatever works, enjoy the moment and treasure the memories.


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