Holiday season is here, and it’s a natural time to think about giving back and donating to charities. In fact, according to the Blackbaud Index, as featured in USA Today, approximately 34% of all charitable donations are given in the last three months of the year, and 18% in December alone.
While giving back should first and foremost be for the purposes of helping those in need, it also can provide health benefits for those on the giving end, in addition to those on the receiving end.
Following are four reasons why giving back is good for the world and our health.
• Giving provides perspective. We often get caught up in our stress during the holidays and at the end of the year. We’re worried about things like holiday shopping, finances, travel plans, dodging family drama and fourth-quarter work deadlines. However, when we place our focus on giving back to others, our perspective deepens and our stress goes down. We realize that while our challenges and struggles are valid, others in the world also may be struggling and maybe even on a larger scale. Our focus shifts from our own world to the broader world and how we can help make a positive impact on others’ lives, especially during the holidays. As a result, our own challenges or perceptions of them may start to diminish or at least seem more manageable.
• Giving gives purpose. Giving back allows us to focus our time, energy and money on something bigger than ourselves. We’re focused on the greater good of others in the world around us, and that provides purpose and a reason to get up every morning, beyond our own needs and wants. If we feel frustrated, anxious, sad or lonely, channeling our efforts into charities and nonprofit endeavors can often release those negative emotions and replace them with positive ones because we’re clear on our purpose and know we’re doing something worthwhile.
• Giving encourages gratitude. When we help others and put our energy toward causes we care about – disease prevention; the environment; providing food, shelter and resources for those in need – we realize how lucky we are in our own lives. Even if we’re going through hardships, there’s always something to be grateful for. Whether it’s our health, family, friendships, job or home, we start to appreciate what we do have more and more. We realize how many blessings we have in our lives and how important it is to treasure and be grateful for all we’ve been given.
• Giving offers hope. Despite any negative events happening in the world, such as natural disasters, crime, violence or political upheaval, charitable giving can always provide hope for a better future. It helps us realize there’s still good in the world and we can do our part to contribute to it. We’ll also be providing hope to those we’re helping, in addition to our families, friends, communities and ourselves. It’s important to find charities and nonprofit groups we may be personally connected to in some way. It’s also important to think about how we want to give back, whether that includes fundraising, running in a race, volunteering or donating money. Whatever we choose, the level of hope and meaning those efforts will provide could be far greater than we could have ever imagined.
Reena Vokoun is founder of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit. For more information, visit passionfit.com.