The Power Of Giving

With the holidays around the corner, we start shopping for Christmas gifts, but most importantly, we start feeling love fill our hearts. What is it about this time of the year that's so magical?

For me, there is nothing more beautiful than watching the first snowfall, while sipping a minty hot chocolate on the corner of the fireplace. I'm the kind of person who gets enthusiastic to see Christmas lights around the city and hearing "Joy to the world" over and over again.

But what makes the holidays really special, is the spirit of spending time with our loved ones and sharing what we can with the less fortunate than us. I believe Christmas is more than finding the perfect gift for the right person. It's about making those little acts of kindness that make us grateful.

Speaking of gifts, a lot of us are worried about the cost of them, especially in the uncertain time we are living in, with the pandemic's impact on the economy. The good news is, a gift doesn't need to cost anything! Often, the most meaningful presents are not made of silver and gold, but of quality time.

There are so many ways to give to others! We all know the conventional ways of offering presents or giving money to charity, but there's also sharing your knowledge by teaching, making the gift of time and energy by volunteering, or just giving support and encouragement to someone in doubt.

Have you ever noticed the spark in someone's eyes when you compliment and smile at them?

Researches conducted by the National Institutes of Health have found that the happiness linked with the act of giving lasts longer than the one experimented while receiving. While looking at the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers have noticed that the brain of people who gave to various charities reacts in a similar way than when receiving money or eating dessert. 

The happiness linked with the act of giving is called the "helper's high" and is provoked by the release of endorphins in the mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain, associated with pleasure. Other chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are also produced in your body when genuinely giving or helping. 

If you are a jogger, you probably experienced the feeling of renewed energy after the first few miles. The concept is the same here. The well-being makes you want to go again the next day.

Considering these chemicals as highly addictive, researchers at the University of California have theorized that this physical feature is part of our quest to survive and thrive. 

Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others. Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. — Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center

The Alcoholics Anonymous program uses this concept by making seniors collaborate with new recruits to guide them through the path of sobriety. It has been shown that when sharing a similar experience and having a purpose helps also the senior to stay away from alcohol. They result in being less depressed, because honestly, who can be depressed knowing they might have saved a life?

How amazing is it to know that helping is actually healing the wounded healer?

Not only people fighting bad habits can benefit from helping, but people with anxiety, for example, or with physical pain will dramatically change their lives by doing so. Some studies even linked participating in charity events with living longer! 

No-one has ever become poor by giving. — Anne Frank

I think that for many of us, Christmas is less a religious holiday than a cultural event. I know a lot of none Christian that still enjoy decorating their living room with a Christmas tree or watching every Christmas movie on Netflix. 

Moreover, all religions have the same conception of compassion and generosity. For example, monks in Buddhism have to let go of any possession and are thought to be humble. For them, the donor's motive is more important than the action itself. You should never feel pressured to give, but do it with altruism. Perhaps we wouldn't talk about overconsumption if everybody would follow this principle during the holidays...

Although we all know Ramadan, in Islam, as a month of fasting from the sunrise to the sunset, this celebration includes more virtues than privation. It's about putting ourselves in people in need's shoes, to remind us to always give with empathize. Just like the holiday season, it's a time of forgiving others, keeping in touch with loved ones, fighting bad behaviors, and giving back. Yet, not all gifts equal another. They promote the gifts that keep on giving long after you. 

For example, teaching someone how to fish will feed him for longer than giving him one fish or planting a tree will provide shelter and food for years to come. 
With all this said, no surprise that there are so many philanthropic organizations world wild!

Alternative Health Writer

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