Where were you the day after Thanksgiving? Did you brave the wild mobs of shopping fanatics that descended upon doorbuster sales and stocking stuffers on Black Friday? Christmas in recent years has lost its luster in the eyes of many since the holiday has been hijacked by retailers who are catering to shoppers’ compulsive desires to “get more for less.” During a season when we should be focused on the joy of giving, we are consumed with the art of getting. The Bible says in Acts 20:35, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” This is more than a saying intended to encourage generosity, it is a biblical truth that multiple studies have shown to be effective. Giving truly is a gift to the giver.
Giving makes you happy – A 2008 study by Harvard Business School found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves. This study sounds contrary to what most people think. In fact, studies have shown that many people try to use shopping as therapy. They believe that buying something for themselves will bring them happiness. What if next time you needed a lift in your spirit, you decide to make someone else’s day?
Giving makes you healthy – Schools and research centers have spent years studying the effects of giving on personal health. Researchers at USC Berkeley have shown how consistent giving can help a person overcome chronic illness and improve longevity. They believe one of the major factors to this result is that giving helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. What if the key to a healthy life is actually found in helping others experience a happy life?
Giving makes the world a better place – I know that this sounds dramatic, but when we give, we don’t only help the person we give to—we also start a chain reaction of generosity throughout our community. A National Academy of Science study shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, they said that “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.” It’s amazing to me that the generosity of giving can actually make this a better world to live in.
So whether you are buying gifts for your family and friends, volunteering your time to help someone in need, or donating money to your favorite charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just a sacrifice. You are actually giving yourself the gift of health and happiness, and you could even jumpstart a cascade of generosity throughout your community that changes the very world you experience every day. During this Christmas season, you will get many gifts that you could live without, but giving is a gift you should never live without.