Today we’re talking about Christmas. I’m using it as an example of how my attitude towards gifts and giving vs. receiving them has changed over time. I hope it sparks an interesting discussion about how giving back in a multitude of ways can help us increase our own happiness and that of those around us.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. It was all about the presents I would get. I’d spend days and weeks anticipating and trying to guess what Mom and Dad would get me this year. I’d make wish lists and circle things in toy catalogs. It was all about receiving material things.
As I’ve grown older, that has changed a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate a thoughtful gift, but to be honest, most of the fun at Christmas for me now is giving gifts. I find joy in the process of finding or making just the right gift, putting it in a pretty wrapper, and then seeing the eyes of the recipient light up when they open their present. And, of course, there is nothing more fun than watching the little ones squeal with delight on Christmas morning as they open the gifts under the tree.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here and that is that giving makes us happier. It isn’t just about physical gifts. Anytime we can give something, be it our time, a kind word, sound advice, or a hug, it makes us feel good to give back. Giving increases our own happiness.
It only makes sense then to focus on giving back more to help lead happier and more fulfilled lives. Think about the various things you can do to start giving back more. Volunteering is a great place to start and there are so many opportunities to do just that. You can help out at your child’s school or at the local church. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are always grateful for an extra pair of hands. If you’re good with animals, help your local humane society to walk dogs and socialize kittens. Reading to patients at the hospital or people in a senior living facility is another wonderful way to give up.
If you’re not able to get out of the house much to volunteer, there are still plenty of opportunities to give back. If you’re crafty, knit some preemie caps for your local hospital or sew up some pet blanket for a local no-kill shelter. Help organize online events, or offer to virtually tutor kids who need homework help.
Start volunteering and giving back and notice how good it makes you feel. It instills a sense of pride and purpose in you and that in turn will help increase your overall happiness. Giving back to your community and family is a wonderful feeling that I hope you get to experience more.