The winter holiday season is a time of year that brings a little magic into everyone's lives. Christmas movies are on TV, and happy holiday songs are heard from every radio. There's something particularly special about indulging in seasonal pastimes like ice skating, making snowmen, or sitting by the fire with a good book while the world outside is snowy and cold. Who doesn’t love spending time with family and friends? Whether you're headed to an ugly sweater get-together with old pals, the company holiday party, or a New Year's Eve fest, celebrating the holidays with others is the best part.
Giving and receiving gifts is also a tradition of the season. Watching our loved ones’ faces light up with delight when they open their presents is heartwarming. Receiving a gift from someone close to us feels amazing, as does treating ourselves to a few holiday goodies. Caring about ourselves and others is an essential key to our happiness. The emotions felt in giving and receiving are reciprocal - when we give to others, we also receive so much in return. The happiness felt in exchange for when we give explains why it feels so good to us when we do.
However, giving doesn’t always have to involve a material gift. In fact, a powerful way to boost our happiness is to give of ourselves instead by doing kind things for others. Something as simple as a smile or a compliment is a small gesture that can make a difference to the person receiving it. When we give our time and complete attention to others, it can sometimes mean more to them than a material gift. Things like helping a neighbour by shovelling their snow, helping a friend with their move, or volunteering to bring hot meals to people in need are ways we can give of ourselves rather than financial gifts. Caring gestures such as these help us to connect with others, which is one of our basic human needs – relatedness. When we relate to, connect, and feel significant to others, we experience warmth, bonding, and care.
Science has proven that helping others boosts happiness. It activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a ‘warm glow’ effect that explains why it feels so good to give. Scientists believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the ‘helper’s high.’ Those who volunteer tend to have better mental health, feeling less depressed and anxious than those who receive help. In addition, giving has been proven to increase the satisfaction and longevity of our lives. Helping others can give us a purpose. When we know that what we are doing is helping to make a positive difference in the lives of others, it provides a sense of meaning to our own life. Kindness increases feelings of competence and improves our mood. For example, teens who volunteer feel better about themselves, are socially more connected with others, and do better in school. And while we are engaging in helpful activities, our minds can focus on things other than our own problems, which in turn - reduces stress.elp us to connect with others, which is one of our basic human needs – relatedness. When we relate to, connect, and feel significant to others, we experience warmth, bonding, and care.
When we are on the receiving end of kindness, it inspires us to be kinder ourselves. Like the ‘Pay It Forward Movement’ - it helped start a ripple effect of kindness acts worldwide. The act of repaying kindness to others continues to pass along the practice of helping one another, thus creating a social movement that makes the world a better and happier place. Science has shown that happier people are more likely to be interested in or be inclined towards helping others, which creates an endless cycle of happier people doing helpful and kind things for how it makes them feel and how it impacts others.
Giving invokes a feeling of gratitude. Whether you are giving a gift to someone to express gratitude or feeling grateful as the recipient of the gift, feeling gratitude helps us to feel happier. This is because research has shown that gratitude is directly correlated with happiness. Feeling grateful for our blessings and expressing gratitude to others increases our joy, positivity, and sense of connection to others.
The reciprocal nature of giving and receiving is also understandable from a spiritual perspective. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we are here to be loved but also to give love. Just as Source loves us unconditionally, when we help others, we are sharing our love with others. This love is seen in acts of kindness such as holding a door open for someone, being appreciative when someone shows us care, and time spent listening to someone who needs a confidant. The happiness we feel when we give of ourselves is experienced because we recognize that helping the other is actually helping ourselves. We are all one. When we give to others, we are also giving to ourselves at the same time.
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Although each of us may look different on the outside, on the inside, we are all part of the same Universe, made of the same ‘stardust.’ We are love and happiness at our core, and helping others is just an extension of who we really are.
Therefore, the benefits of giving extend far past the giver and receiver. Kindness extends into the Universe, and its effects can be felt in communities all around the world. May this winter holiday season inspire you to give of yourself in ways that may be even more meaningful for you and the recipient.
Teresa Greco is the author of the book Steps to True Happiness, and the co-author of the best-selling books The Decision to Heal: Pathways from Suffering to Love, and Business, Life and the Universe: Vol 4. She is an educator and educational technologies consultant with a master’s degree in Education from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is the editor and senior writer at two Canadian lifestyle magazines. Teresa is also a happiness coach and the radio host of a weekly show called “The Steps to Happiness Show With Teresa Greco.” As a coach and reiki master, she does public speaking, holds workshops, and mentors others about embracing, honouring, loving, and celebrating their true authentic self and achieving their own personal happiness and fulfillment. You can follow Teresa on her Instagram page @teresagreco_stepstohappiness and Facebook page, Steps to True Happiness with Teresa Greco. You can also connect with Teresa by visiting her website, www.teresagreco.ca, or by email at email@example.com about speaking engagements, workshops, and services.
Photo Credits: RODNAE Productions from Pexels
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