For it is in the giving that we receive
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For it is in the giving that we receive

For it is in the giving that we receive

Dec 10 2019

"For it is in the giving that we receive" (St. Francis of Assisi)

'Tis the season.  You may look forward to the social activities this time of year brings:  family gatherings, holiday parties, good cheer or, you may view the holiday season with some trepidation.  Maybe your financial situation is not the greatest and you worry about meeting the extra expenses. Maybe you  experienced a significant relationship loss due to death or estrangement and the thought of the "festive" season brings despair.  Or maybe you have an ugly Christmas sweater for each of the twelve days of Christmas and can't wait to start wearing them! Whatever your personal situation, 'tis the season for giving and in doing so, you may just notice something.

St. Frances may not have had a degree in social psychology, but he was clearly aware of the advantages of prosocial behaviour  (i.e. helping others, compassion).  Altruism  is giving or doing something without the expectation of anything in return and there is a substantial amount of science behind the idea that participating in altruistic acts leads to an increased sense of personal well being.  Helping others activates the area of the brain associated with feelings of pleasure.  People who regularly volunteer report experiencing less pain and depression.  Altruism promotes social connections and encourages others to "pay it forward."  When we engage in acts of kindness we  perceive others more positively, thereby increasing our own subjective happiness.  

The holiday season is a good time to reflect on our own acts of altruism and to make a commitment to continue helping behaviours throughout the year. Here are five ways you can nurture altruism and in turn give your mood a boost.

  1. Get connected.  Join a club.  Keep informed about community events by reading local newspapers.  Volunteer at the local food bank.
  2. Be grateful.  Humans often struggle with this.  We are more concerned with what we lack and what others have, rather than appreciate what we already have. I have a morning routine where I list 5 things I am grateful for.  It is a positive way to start the day.
  3. Engage in random acts of kindness.  Fill someone's parking meter if you notice it's about to expire, help someone carry their packages, make treats for the office, smile and say "hello" to people you meet. These are little gestures you can do that could really make someone's day.
  4. Look for the similarities.  When we can see something of ourselves in others, we are more likely to engage in helping behaviours toward the person or group.  This can also help reduce conflict and encourage cooperation.
  5. Put yourself and others in a good mood. Watch a funny movie, remember a funny event, give someone a compliment. People who are happy tend to be more generous and more likely to share with others.


Have a safe and healthy Holiday!

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