Sadly, after several devastating hurricanes, tragic shootings and attacks on innocent people, destructive wildfires in our own home state, and other heartbreaking events occurring over the past several months, it may be a bit difficult to feel the holiday spirit. But it’s also more important than ever that we dig a little deeper and find ways to give back to the people, communities, and organizations that are so important in our lives. And giving back when we are able does more than just help others – it also has a positive effect on our health.
Several studies have shown multiple benefits from charitable giving and volunteering, including increased self-esteem, reduced stress levels and other neurobiological benefits. Additionally, Harvard Health reports that people who volunteer feel more socially connected, have lower levels of loneliness and depression, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and may even be more active and likely to eat right. With so many positive benefits for both the giver and the receiver, why not look for new ways to “pay it forward” this season?
Not Sure Where to Start?
The number of organizations and causes that need help, and the different ways you can contribute may seem overwhelming, so here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Volunteer your time. While this option does require you to find time in your schedule, it’s a free way to support your favorite cause and positively impact your community. Find something that interests you — your community, the environment, youth, animals, etc. — and volunteer your skills or just some time to help:
- Donate on behalf of the Northern California wildfires. This last October, intense fires burned over 115,000 acres and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings while claiming the lives of dozens of people. While the fires are now contained, they’ve left thousands of victims in their wake.
- Donate on behalf of hurricane relief. Hurricanes ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico this year — and unfortunately many areas are still devastated and will take years to rebuild.
- The United for Puerto Rico 100% of the proceeds will go to helping the victims
- The UNICEF is providing immediate support to children affected by Hurricane Maria. 90% of every dollar goes directly to helping kids.
- The The American Red Cross is providing aid to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The money raised goes toward delivering supplies and shipping satellite phones.
- The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund 100% of donations go to immediate and long-term relief efforts
- Other small ways to give back. Giving back doesn’t have to require much time or money. In fact, some of the best ways to give back are the easiest.
- Pay it forward. Quietly pay for the person's coffee in the car behind you at the coffee shop or at another drive-through situation. Pay for a military service member, police officer, or firefighters check at a restaurant.
- Consider donations instead of gifts. Perhaps instead of giving gifts this year, donate to a charity or cause in the name of who you're giving the gift to.
- Donate to the El Camino Hospital Foundation. Providing a small donation can benefit members of your community in need of health care, support programs for patients and new health innovations that can improve the heath and wellness of those in our community. Donate now.
- Lend a hand to your neighbors and friends. Everyone can use a little extra help at certain points — so if you know of someone who could use some extra help in their yard, with certain chores or meals, or simply company — see if you can take a little time out of your week to make their day.
- Simply be kind. Allow someone with less items go in front of you at the grocery store, hold the door for people, and help people who look like they could use it — a little goes a long way.
Remember this holiday season that giving back benefits everyone — including yourself — so try to find some time to do something good for someone else. Generosity is proven to start a chain reaction, so when you are kind to someone, it inspires them to do good for others.
This article first appeared in the November 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.