This holiday season is often called the “season of giving” where we focus on sharing physical gifts, our time, and the spirit of care and compassion. While the act of giving is exciting for many people, and actually boasts physical and mental benefits, it can also be a huge source of stress. How do we get into the mindset of giving without letting stress take over?
The Physical Benefits of Giving
The physical and chemical benefits of giving to others are not often widely discussed. Hormones like oxytocin (the “cuddle/love” hormone) and dopamine (the “feel good” hormone) are produced when we give to others, which can help lower stress, reduce blood pressure, and much more.
Striving for low stress levels this time of year may seem impossible for many – from planning holiday events, to traveling, visiting families and buying gifts. But giving doesn’t have to look like planning a huge meal or buying expense gifts, it’s the act of giving and receiving the little things you do every day. Ultimately, it’s the act of kindness – and by giving these small acts of kindness, we are giving our brains little shots of feel-good hormones.
What are some small acts you can do? Kindness can look like assisting someone, in your own home or out in public. It can be a simple act like recognizing someone you know has had a hard year or hard day and taking the time to give them a call or write a personal note. It can be as simple as asking how someone is doing and truly listening when they respond. It doesn’t have to be a tangible gift.
Giving starts in the home. To encourage your family and/or children to engage in small acts of kindness and giving, start conversations within your family and lead by example. Involve your children so you can teach them and pass along values of kindness and giving.
Come up with some fun ways of how you and your family can give back to each other and your community. Maybe choose somewhere to volunteer or a nonprofit to donate to. Have conversations in the home about kind things that have been happening lately. Use the opportunity to acknowledge the people in your life who you may take for granted or overlook and be international with it.
Children as young as pre-k can begin to participate in these conversations and acts of kindness. As they get older, help them be more intentional with giving and thankfulness with their friends and loved ones. Do it as a family. Find a gratitude project you and your family can work on together. Take time to show that seemingly small tasks can actually make a big impact, like planning a meal, cleaning up dishes, or bringing the family together through an activity.
For more on the science of gratitude as well as gratitude activities to do with your family, check out our gratitude resources here.
Watch Dr. Luke Spiegelhoff's 'Season of Giving' interview at KSTP below.
This blog article was contributed by Dr. Luke Spiegelhoff, MSW, Clinical Director Specialist for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.