The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up this week in the U.S. This is one of our favorite holidays at CV Skinlabs because it’s all about giving back to our friends, loved ones, and communities.
After a difficult, stressful year, we’re encouraging our staff and all of our customers to find ways to give back. It benefits others, yes, but perhaps even more importantly, it can make you feel better and more hopeful for the year to come.
How Giving Back Can Benefit Your Health and Well Being
Have you ever given someone a gift that they really wanted, but weren’t expecting? If so, you know what it’s like. It can make you feel great for days.
Indeed, according to a 2016 study, performing random acts of kindness for others boosted mood more than doing something nice for yourself. “People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves,” the researchers wrote. “Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they op to treat someone else instead.”
Giving back provides much more than a temporary high, though, especially if you do it regularly. A 2017 report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute showed that people are happier overall when they give to others and that the more they give, the happier they tend to be.
The act of doing something for someone else can be so powerful that it can ease the symptoms of depression. In a 2010 study, researchers found that volunteering at midlife was significantly associated with improved self-reported health and a reduction in depressive symptoms.
The effects can migrate to physical health, too. In a 2013 study, researchers found that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
Perhaps the best thing about giving? It’s contagious! Whenever you give back, you create a ripple effect that moves from the receiver throughout the community. In a study from the University of California, researchers found that when one person behaved generously, it inspired observers to do the same later on, toward different people. In fact, it spread in three degrees from person to person to person to person.
“Each person in a network,” the researchers wrote, “can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
10 Ways to Give Back in Your Community
If you’re looking for ideas on how to give back, try these.
1. Donate materials to nearby schools and charities.
Going local is usually the best way to start giving back. Organizations only a few miles away from you are likely in need of even the simplest supplies.
You don’t have to make a special trip. Next time you go shopping, simply add an extra pad of paper, pen, or backpack to your cart, then take these to a nearby school that needs it. Or pack a few extra cans of food in your tote bag and drop them off at the food bank.
2. Take up a collection.
If you’d like to donate to a charity but you don’t have a lot of money to spare, take up a collection at the office or among your friends and family. If everyone chips in a little, you can collect a significant amount that any charity would be grateful for.
3. Spread the good news.
We’ve all been inundated with bad news this year. Put a smile on someone’s face by sharing good news on your social media platforms, emails, or blogs. Think about what makes you smile, then share it with others.
4. Donate blood.
The American Red Cross always needs new blood supplies. It takes only about an hour to go through the process, and you’ll be giving a valuable resource that can help save lives. What could feel better than that?
There are numerous opportunities for volunteers in any community. Beyond the standard soup kitchens, there are also children’s hospitals, mentoring programs, museums, music organizations, nursing homes, and many more.
To find your ideal volunteer service, try these websites:
6. Foster a pet.
This has become popular this year because of COVID-19. As more people found themselves stuck at home, they wanted to share their time with a four-legged friend. Check with your local Humane Society, Animal Control, and Animal Rescue programs to see where your help may be needed.
7. Entertain the elderly.
If you like to read, tell stories, play music, or play board games, there are likely people at your local nursing homes and senior living centers who would love to spend time with you. Call first to find out if you can visit—you may need to wait until COVID restrictions ease, but ask the personnel. It could be some seniors would love some handwritten letters from you and/or your children.
8. Create a lawn library.
Share books in your neighborhood by creating a little library on your front lawn. It can be as simple as a covered box or as fancy as you want to make it. Add a sign encouraging people to take or leave a book. You may also want to create a website where people can comment on various books as they read them. This sort of activity can help bring neighborhoods together.
9. Donate your hair.
If your hair is more than eight inches long and you’d like to cut it, consider giving it away to someone in need. Donating is as easy as cutting, collecting, and mailing to the charity of your choice. Be sure to check their length and hair quality requirements first.
Some charities that love hair:
10. Write a letter to a soldier.
Operation Gratitude is a nonprofit organization that encourages Americans to write letters thanking first responders and men and women in the military for their service. This is a great activity to do with kids to teach them about the sacrifices these people make every day.
What ideas do you have for giving back?
“IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy News.” Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Last modified October 17, 2017. https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/news-events/news-item/giving-to-charity-makes-everyone-happier,-especially-when-women-lead-or-participate-in-family-decisions.html?id=240.
Marsh, J., and J. Suttie. “5 Ways Giving Is Good for You.” Greater Good. Last modified December 13, 2010. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you.
Nelson, S. K., Kristin Layous, Steven W. Cole, and Sonja Lyubomirsky. “Do unto others or treat yourself? The effects of prosocial and self-focused behavior on psychological flourishing.” Emotion 16, no. 6 (2016), 850-861. doi:10.1037/emo0000178.
Pillemer, K., T. E. Fuller-Rowell, M. C. Reid, and N. M. Wells. “Environmental Volunteering and Health Outcomes over a 20-Year Period.” The Gerontologist 50, no. 5 (2010), 594-602. doi:10.1093/geront/gnq007.
Sneed, Rodlescia S., and Sheldon Cohen. “A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults.” Psychology and Aging 28, no. 2 (2013), 578-586. doi:10.1037/a0032718.