Social Giving for Greater Happiness

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With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s officially the holiday season. For some of us, this can be a very stressful time. You may feel like your budget is stretched beyond its limits, or you may be missing loved ones. Maybe you feel like there’s too much to do with holiday shopping and baking and little time to do it. For others, it’s their favorite time of year.

No matter how you feel about the holidays, here’s an idea to help make the season brighter: Try social giving.

What do I mean by “social giving?” You might think of it this way: Being generous makes us happier when it includes a social dimension. Our best experiences come from giving to people we know and having the opportunity to enjoy doing things together.

That’s the conclusion from recent studies about the emotional impact of charitable donations. The rewards have more to do with the way we give rather than the size of our donations. We feel better when we have direct contact with the recipients rather than mailing a check or using a website. A similar dynamic occurs when we volunteer.

You may already believe that it’s better to give than receive. Now, you can use this knowledge to make giving even better by maximizing the social connections.

Nurture your loved ones. Start with your family and close friends. Hand out sincere compliments. Celebrate their victories. Surprise them by cooking their favorite dinner.

Reach out to your neighbors. Invite them over for coffee and cake. Bring over a batch of homemade cookies. Offer to take care of their pets when they’re gone.

Support local charities. Research organizations that are doing good work in your own town. Visit a local animal shelter or after school program. Ask them what resources they need most.

Practice random acts of kindness. Brighten the day for a stranger, with a kind word. Buy coffee for the car behind you. Carry an extra pen you can give away when needed. Let someone with fewer items get ahead of you in line at the grocery store.

Pick up the tab. Instead of handing out gift certificates, invite people to join you for coffee or a movie. You’ll spread more cheer and have a chance to get to know people better.

Write thank you letters. In these days of texts and emojis, how special it is to receive a handwritten thank you card in the mail or in person.

Develop pure intentions. Prevent disappointments by giving without any expectation of returns. Give from your heart.

Volunteer as a group. Bring your family and friends along for community service work. Browse online clearinghouses where you can find group projects.

Coordinate a workplace campaign. Ask for suggestions about what causes your colleagues want to support. Organize a fundraiser where people can relax and mingle like a pancake breakfast or talent contest.

Join a club. Check out service clubs like Rotary and then volunteer to spearhead projects that are of particular interest to you. Propose a special project to your book club or running group.

Perpetuate the cycle. Studies also show that people are more likely to keep giving when social interactions make their first experience rewarding. You’ll be welcoming more accomplishments and joy into your future.

Giving enriches our lives and strengthens our communities. So, for this holiday season, and all year long, team up with others to make your world a kinder, gentler and happier place.

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