You’ve heard this advice before, but during the holidays, when emotions can go from happy to sad — perhaps you’re missing someone who won’t be at the table, or you’re disenchanted with all the commercialism — spend time helping others. It’s one of the surest ways to lift your mood.
Yes, I always encourage you to take time for you, but by taking time for two, you’ll receive even more powerful benefits. Aside from the obvious advantages to the people or organization where you give your time, science has shown that practicing philanthropy provides YOU a healthier, happier life.
So just how much time must you give to realize these benefits? One study found that seniors who volunteered at least 100 hours annually were 28 percent less likely to die from any cause, when compared to their non-volunteering peers. But even if you can’t spare two hours a week, you can still reap the longer lifespan benefits, as long as you’re volunteering regularly.
Through your philanthropic efforts, you’ll not only spread goodwill, you’ll also share in those feelings of well-being. Your altruistic endeavors create greater happiness in your own life by increasing your brain’s output of dopamine, a mood-elevating neurotransmitter. So even relatively simple, small acts of kindness – visiting a sick friend, walking a 5K for cancer, donating a wrapped toy to your local homeless shelter – boost your mood.
If you find yourself in a funk this holiday season, consider going out and doing good for someone else. You just may find that you’re the one who benefits the most.