As the holidays come upon us, many of us remember to more fully give of ourselves for others. This merry time of year sees us strive to do more, including random acts of service. While I hope we recognize the need to give to others year ‘round, this is a special time to focus on doing that much more for our fellow men.
Did you know that doing good deeds of service for others—giving—is shown in scientific studies to actually be physically good for us, not just mentally and emotionally beneficial? They found that there are a number of great benefits associated with giving, including these:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased self esteem
- Increased happiness and satisfaction
- Decreased levels of stress
- Less depression
- Long life spans
Furthermore, some research has shown that symptoms associated with heart disease and chronic pain conditions are decreased when you give and are generous. Immunoglobulin levels are also increased, which means the immune system is strengthened.
In fact, being generous and giving can physiologically give you a kind of “high,” similar to the “runner’s high.” When acts of kindness and generosity are done, the hormone oxytocin can be released into the bloodstream. This hormone is the feel-good hormone that helps us be happy and reduces anxiety, stress, and depression.
Losing ourselves in service to others helps us forget about, at least temporarily, the stress and problems we face in our own day-to-day lives. Taking the time to give our minds a break from these stressors and problems helps reduce stress and the negative effects it has on our bodies. We might often find that those we serve are in situations worse than our own, and our minds are opened to how blessed and fortunate we are. Putting things into this perspective often helps us face stress and challenges more positively.
So what are some good ways for you and your family to give service and make life a little happier for others, especially during this holiday season of giving? We’ve listed some ideas and suggestions on ways to spread more happiness and cheer this year!
- Stock up on hats, gloves, and socks the next time you see them on sale, and drop them off at a local homeless shelter.
- Buy a bunch of balloons and hand them out to random children.
- Pay for the person behind you in a drive thru.
- Take a handful of quarters and a roll of tape and stick the quarters on gumball machines all over town. Or put the quarters inside the coin return on a video game machine.
- Take your outgrown coats to a local shelter.
- Find a need and meet it. We are all on social media and see need daily. Did a friend's house burn down or flood? Take supplies. Someone sick? Take a meal.
- Walk a friend or family member's dog
- Bake cookies together and deliver to the fire station or police station.
- On garbage day in your neighborhood, have the kids pull everyone's garbage cans back to their houses.
- Dress up your kids in their Christmas finery and go share some hugs at a nursing home. So many nursing home residents never get visitors and having kids walk around really changes the energy!
- Donate blood or plasma.
- Call up a single mom and offer to babysit her children so she can go Christmas shopping. This makes a fun play date for the kids, plus a much needed break for a mom.
- Get out the markers, crayons, and paper and make homemade cards or just have the kids color pretty pictures. Drop them off at a rehabilitation center or hospital.
- Put together a care package for a missionary or member of the military.
- Deliver a Christmas tree to a family in need or take one to an assisted living or nursing home facility.
- Smile at ten strangers.
- We all know an area where homeless people tend to always be, maybe outside a certain building or at the end of an exit ramp. Make a bag of food (protein bars, pop top canned food, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, nuts, etc.) and keep it in the car until you find a person who needs it.
- Adopt a Salvation Army angel or pick up a food angel at your local grocery store to provide a Christmas meal to a family in need. Shop together as a family.
- Have your kids do something nice for you or for each other. Clean a brother's room, make a sister's bed, help mom or dad wash the dishes.
- Find an area in town that is dirty and littered and clean it up!
- Give the kids a broom and put them to work sweeping the porches of the widows and the elderly in the neighborhood.
- Drop baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) off at a crisis pregnancy center. Most of these places also take used baby clothes and equipment to help out new moms if you've got baby items lying around you’re no longer using.
- Go through the cabinets and send canned goods to a food pantry or backpack program.
- Buy a few decks of cards or some games that can be played in bed and take them to a children's hospital.
- Take crayons and coloring books to the waiting room at the hospital.
- Cover pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed and take care of the wildlife in your backyard for the winter.