Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill, which can be a little hard to find after a day’s hard shopping. That’s a pity because research shows goodwill and kindness has is very good for you.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Holding a door, smiling (I know this is a bit weird for some Brits) and paying a sincere compliment won’t hurt your credit card but will do a power of good to your emotional bank balances.
Just in case you were wondering, here’s one of my favourites:
Give blood. If you do this already great! If you don’t, sign up. It doesn’t hurt and it’ll do you a power of good. In my opinion there is something quite special about giving blood. It could mean the difference between life and death for someone. What’s more you have no idea who it will help, it could be your worst enemy or your best friend. It’s a wonderful random act of kindness.
Coincidentally (?) just as I was writing this tip I received the following article in Bill O’Hanlon’s newsletter which backs up the point rather nicely.
I recently read the story of how researcher Carolyn Schwartz became interested in researching the positive benefits to the giver of contributing to others.She had designed a research study involving Multiple Sclerosis patients in which she was investigating whether being in an coping skills/educational group or receiving 15-minute monthly active listening phone calls from a person who also had M.S. was more effective in relieving symptoms.
She met with the people who made the call regularly over the course of the year and couldn’t help noticing that these people were doing much better than any of the experimental subjects. They reported 4 times the benefit in psychosocial areas (social interaction, alertness, emotional behavior, and communication), 3.5 times the benefits on coping ability) and 7.6 times the benefits on measures of well-being (depression, anxiety, satisfaction and happiness) when measured 2 years after the study began as compared with the coping skills participants (who also benefited from being in those educational groups.)
This was a stunning and unexpected benefit. Schwartz changed her focus and began to study the positive effects of altruism on subjective and physical well-being and has conducted many studies that replicate and refine this original finding.It seems appropriate in this season of giving to learn that unselfish giving can benefit the giver as well as the receiver.
Schwartz, Carolyn, “Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support,” in Post, Stephen (Ed.). (2007). Altruism and Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research. NY: Oxford University Press.