The Joys of Giving

7 ways to spark holiday magic this Christmas

The Joys of Giving

Holiday giving is not only an opportunity to express love to the receiver, but also a chance for us to boost our health or preserve the environment. Read on for seven ways we can make Christmas merry for all.

The weather outside may be frightful, but to make this Christmas delightful, there’s much more we can do than wrap up (potentially) unwanted or unneeded items. What’s more: giving creatively offers health perks for givers, receivers, and the environment. Here, find seven ways to spread holiday cheer this year.

Put pen to paper

According to a 2017 report, gratitude is associated with long-term success in relationships and an increased likelihood of optimism, exercise, and reduced reports of physical symptoms.

To practise gratitude, call to mind a few friends or family members you’re especially grateful for. Write a letter to them, noting a few specific things they’ve done for you, why you’re grateful to them, and how their help has had an impact on your life.

Explain what your life is like now and how often you think of what they’ve done for you. If you’d like, pay them a visit after writing the letter and read it out loud to them, allowing both of you time to express your feelings afterward.

Do your homework

One 2013 study revealed subjects were happier when told how their gift would make a difference in the recipient’s life, compared with those who didn’t hear these details. So, before giving charitable donations, research the concrete ways your gifts will help someone.

Get thrifty

We can save our wallets and the environment by scanning our Christmas lists for anyone who might appreciate second-hand gifts.

Think vintage accessories, classic books at a used book store for avid readers/collectors, fabric remnants to make quilts, one-of-a-kind items, or handmade goods. For kids, try second-hand toys such as unnoticeably used items or a treasured heirloom from your family members. This may also help ease our children into the habit of reusing and recycling.

Lend a hand

A 2017 study comparing volunteers to non-volunteers found that the volunteers were as healthy as non-volunteers who were five years younger.

To find out who could use some holiday help this holiday season, start by looking for volunteering opportunities in your local paper. Using this method, I found an opportunity to help at a shelter for street-level sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where I continued to volunteer for the remainder of the year.

Make it personal

In a study published in the journal Positive Psychology as a Mechanism for Social Change, participants felt happiest when given a gift card to take a friend out to coffee, compared to handing over the card to their friend or using the card on themselves while out with a friend. These results point to the superior benefits of giving while also connecting.

Put this study into practice by taking a family member or friend shopping, giving them tickets to an event, or consuming goodies at a food festival or coffee shop/restaurant you’ll attend together.

Shop local

From our gifts to our dinner tables, we can give back to our community and protect the environment by shopping local. Locally made goods take less fuel to transport and often need only minimal packaging.

Find opportunities to shop local by looking for one-of-a-kind locally made gifts at mom-and-pop shops, free-range turkey at the grocer’s, winter squash from the backyard, or homemade rolls you’ve freshly prepared.

Present a priceless commodity

If you know someone who’s run off their feet or could use some company, why not give them some of your time? Plan to do something for them (including running their errands, cleaning their car, or organizing a room in their house) or an outing with them. If possible, leave your watch or smartphone at home while completing your task, so you can truly give the activity as much time and attention as it takes.

A 2013 study revealed that participants found greater happiness from giving three “gifts of time” in one week by meeting with three friends for time above and beyond their normal activities than the placebo group.

Try these ideas to get the whole family in on the giving.

Give on the sly

  • Tell each family member to anonymously give a gift or service to a family member, acquaintance, or stranger.
  • Leave groceries on someone’s doorstep.
  • Pay for a stranger’s dinner or coffee.
  • Leave a kind note.
  • Shovel a neighbour’s driveway.
  • Sneak a $5 bill into a coat pocket.

Cards for those who protect

Create holiday cards with your kids to drop off at fire halls or police stations (perhaps with a plate of healthy goodies on the side).

Crafty gifts for our elders

Make use of the creations your children have crafted over the holidays by bringing them to an assisted living centre.

Remember all creatures

Extend generosity to all creatures by helping your kids fill up a bird feeder, set out a salt lick, leave peanut butter bread for squirrels, or bake up homemade treats for the neighbourhood pooches.

Share some festive songs

Gather your kids and neighbours to sing carols for widows/widowers, seniors, or those you know are alone for the holidays.

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